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Interview | Donna Bates | The Portrait Issue

What risks are you taking as an artist?

A lot of my paintings have political overtones, so I guess in this environment that could be a risk.  Also I  like to combine graphic and abstract elements with my figurative work. I am always trying to experiment with different styles and lighting.  I tend to get bored if things are too much the same.

Where do you think this portrait is going to end up?

Maybe in my closet or at my Mother's?  Because it is of me, I don't see anyone who doesn't know me  wanting to buy it.  I mean I could be wrong.  With figurative and portrait painting, there is always that fine line between the subject of the painting being just an interesting character or feeling a need to actually know the person to want to buy it. That is something I grapple with and talk about with my artist friends all the time.  That line is so fine and varies with each collector or viewer.

How much of your work is dedicated to portraiture?

When I first was getting back into painting, I took lots of portrait workshops and did quite a bit of alla prima and I still do portrait drawing from life quite a bit.  To me the face is everything, it is what I feel I engage with the most.  Even though most of my current work is not straight up portraiture, it is a huge component in all my figurative work.

What do you read?

Well, this is embarrassing!  I read all sorts of articles but have not sat down and read a book that was not a computer manual in years.  I am a multi-tasker, I paint with the TV on.  So no subtitles and nothing that is too hard to follow.  I even find it hard to sit down and watch a whole movie without doing something else at the same time.

What brought you to the path you are on?

OMG, where do I begin?  I turn 70 in April, so it is a very long crazy, sordid and cautionary tale!  Sex, Rock and Roll, Punk Rock, Funk, Hip Hop, Hollywood, computers, the 60's, 70's, 80's and so on but art has always been at the core of my life.  After doing digital art, 2D and 3D for over 20 years I got laid off and with some soul searching decided to go back to my roots Figurative Fine Art and here I am.


Donna Bates also has an upcoming show at RJD Gallery this April.

Native Southern Californian, Donna Bates lives and paints in Los Angeles CA. Her years of experience as a commercial illustrator and 3D Artist for over 20 years has evolved into a career in painting.  She has taken so many classes and workshops always hungry to learn but is a self-taught artist and admits to being influenced by many contemporary/classical artists, fashion, pop and street culture.

Donna is known for her urban, edgy, realistic style of strong independent women.  

As a woman who came of age in the 60’s, there were not a lot of options for women in the workplace, she has lived long enough to see a lot of changes for the better but believes we cannot take these freedoms for granted as echoed by recent current events.  

She strives to show women as “Bad Ass Chicks” but also to create empathy in the viewer.  

Although many of her paintings make political statements the visual always dominates and invites. Art and being a creative have dominated Donna Bates' life who started drawing as soon as she could pick up a pencil.  As with so many creative people, Donna wanted to do it all.  Although she was an art major in school, she started playing drums when she was 16 and played in numerous bands.  Touring Viet Nam in a USO Show during the war with an all-girl band to playing with bands in the early LA Punk scene in the late 70's and early 80's.  From music, she transitioned into computers in the early '90s, being one of very few women who entered the male-dominated 3d Animation/VFX field.  She went on to be one of the only women to teach CG Modeling at Gnomon School of VFX.  She says, “I see or feel something I want to do and I just go for it.   It’s the only way I know, I just seem to have no other choice.”   Bates further states, “My paintings all have a little bit of me in them and a lot of my struggles, loves and life experience.”

Donna has participated in at least 12 group shows during 2016 including the prestigious "Women Painting Women" Show at RJD Gallery.  She was featured in PoetsArtists “Figurative Painters of 2016” and also had a painting in ”Male Muse”.

Donna Bates is one of the featured artists in the upcoming PoetsArtists group show WOMAN AS WARRIOR at the Zhou B Art Center this August. Here is one of the works for the show.