We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Bates and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Looking back, I think my whole life has been about taking risks! Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s there were not a lot of jobs available for women. My Mother wanted me to become a Secretary, but I knew that was not for me. After being a struggling musician, I went on to work as a commercial illustrator and 3D Artist for over 20 years. Somehow that evolved into a career in painting. Where usually people transition from Traditional to Digital, I went the other way. Not playing it safe, I have created my own mash-up style of urban, tough-chic, edgy, fresh, strong, and independent humans or “BadAsses”. My people are not traditional pin-ups nor portraits, they are a different vision of power and sex flavored with leather, metal, graffiti, human rights, and fantasy! In other words, not just pretty pictures! Art and being a creative have dominated my life, I started drawing as soon as she could pick up a pencil. As with so many creative people, I wanted to do it all. Although I was an art major in school, I 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. I then transitioned into computers in the early ’90s, being one of very few women who entered the male-dominated 3d Animation/VFX field. I went on to be one of the only women to teach CG Modeling at Gnomon School of VFX. As much as I love money, it has never been the motivating force for which career I wanted to pursue. I have always just seen something that I have wanted to do and gone for it. There is little that is riskier than being that “Starving Artist” you have heard so much about! In the last 4 years I have exhibited in various group shows such as RJD Gallery, Rehs Contemporary Galleries, 33 Contemporary Gallery and Zhou B. Art Center. I was a featured artist in a four woman show at Annenberg Beach House, Santa Monica and had two paintings on HBO’s show “Insecure”. My work has been in the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Painting the Figure Now 2018 and at Zhou B Art Center in 2019” co-curated with PoetArtists and I was a finalist in WMOCA’s International Biennial Portrait Competition plus also a finalist in ARC Salon 14. Plus, a painting in the Bennett Collection.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Well, I think that I addressed most of this in the answer to the first question. I think you would really need to see my work to know what sets it apart but it is modern figurative oilpainting with a real 2020 edge. I am usually most proud of my latest paintings and trying new techniques and getting better with every painting under my belt. I don’t think that I have ever done anything that was easy! I’m still trying to overcome the challenges particularly in this time of Covid-19. I guess the main thing I have learned is to believe in yourself and that no matter how bleak things can look, to keep moving forward because fear can paralyze you and then nothing good happens! It is almost a spiritual experience.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well being an Artist, I would probably take them to galleries… Arcadia Contemporary-Pasadena, Gabba Gallery-LA, Maxwell Alexander-Downtown, Simard Blodeau Contemporary-Downtown, Thinkspace-Culver City, Patrick Painter-Downtown, Corey Helford-Downtown.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
PoetsArtists and Didi Melendez have been a game changer for me as far as getting my work out to a larger audience and providing shows and press.
all paintings and photos by Donna Bates