Orange, Texas – Like the pen of a ready writer descends on the page to create pictures with words, so does the brush of the gifted artist stroke the canvass creating words for works of art.  Such is the case with C. Delle Bates, popular local artist from Orange, one who will be featured at this weekend’s up coming annual Art in the Park in Stark Park. He along with other regional artists will show their wares Saturday, March 26 during the 9th annual festival.  Art is not where life started for C. Delle. He was born in Winnfield, La., a small town with a large history, touting Huey P. Long, Earl K. Long and O.K. Allen as having resided there. All three became well known governors of the state.

Politics, however, was not the route Bates traveled. His journey to the world of artisans was far from typical.    

“I hadn’t painted even a stroke prior to 1995. Funny we took some type of aptitude tests when I was a sophomore, I think. It said I should be an artist.” Bates laughs and shows a wide infectious smile. Instead he started his own company, C. Delle Bates & Associates a successful business connected with the timber industry that developed an innovative plywood adhesive.

Running and operating a business along with marriage and three children kept Bates too busy over the next 18 years to ponder the wonderful world of oils on canvass. With the passing of both his parents, he moved his family to Orange to bring his children closer to their maternal grandparents. By 1995 he had made the decision to sell his company and the first steps toward immersion in art began.

Stepping into Bates’ studio is nothing less than walking into an art museum. Art pieces cover every surface, every wall, nook and cranny. The building, where he also lives, overlooks the waterfront on the Sabine River in Orange in a historical area of town. The 100-year-old building once housed a saloon. His large red Blood Hound, Françoise, guards the two story brick with clerestory windows that are beautifully bedecked with guardian angels.

“Much of my stuff is spiritual,” Bates comments as he renders a happily guided tour of his work space. Angels are on canvass, wood and cinder block. “I painted nothing but angels for a year and a half after Hurricane Rita. I am getting a little tired of angels now,” he smiles again.

Bates explains his latest series is named after a rock and roll song, “Stairway to Heaven.” Several of the pieces are in his painting area and consist of a variety of beach cabins with ladders connecting ground to cabin.

“I love to name them, the names just come to me.” There are also several pieces from his Stained Glass series, Wall Street Series and Botanicals Series and two wonderful canvasses that represent Hurricanes Rita and Ike.

“Both of which tore the roof off my studio! Rita destroyed everything. I wouldn’t sell anything before her, just had stacks of my work everywhere. I was holding it too close to the chest though. Now I sell it!” Having been close to that type of devastation has given Bates a great deal of empathy for the victims in Japan, terrorized by the earthquake and tsunami.  A painting he did prior to Rita, “Sunrise on Sunset” of an area of Orange he renamed, “Sunrise on Sunset Before Rita” as the trees in his portrait no longer exist.
However, he has specific plans for one of his works entitled “Tsunami.” He is selling 10” by 10” prints for the victims of Japan’s tsunami. Each will be $100 and all of it will go to the American Red Cross. “I am talking with the Red Cross this week. Anyone interested will just write their check out to them.”

As with all of his works, the brightly chosen hues of “Tsunami” portray something one cannot quite put into words. His studio walls are a kaleidoscope of color with various still life, botanicals, pink piranhas and even a few nudes.

“Those aren’t so spiritual,” laughs Bates but does point to an odd nude stating, “This one could be used for a breast cancer advertisement or something.” 

The images are bold and the strong lines define specific shapes, but people will see in them what speaks to them.

“I suppose that is probably the most rewarding thing about doing this. It isn’t the money, even when the money was flowing; it was never about the money. It’s about when something I create speaks to someone, moves them, makes them want to wrap it up and take it while the paint is still wet!” His eyes have that glint of enthusiasm that one sees in his work.

He paints in oils, on plywood. He started with canvass and painted a series on cinder blocks picked up from the debris and devastation of Hurricane Rita. He has tried a variety of things with the plywood including carving some areas on the media into the wood prior to painting the image. Pricing is hard.

As one artist has said, “It’s a one of a kind, original piece of art. How do you put a price on that?” C.Delle agrees. “It was very hard to figure out how to price my work. I finally decided on a sort of real estate plan and price it per square inch.”

Many things inspire him as a painter, from hurricanes that bring up images of dark figures and tornadoes to reading about a dapple dog, which inspired his “Dapple Apple” piece.
“I normally pant six to eight hours a day, five days a week, producing about fifty pieces a year. I am in a bit of a slump right now.”

He is working though. Along with his Stairway to Heaven Series, he is also working on pieces for a coffee table book.

“I am painting a piece for each chapter in the book of Psalms. I plan for it to take about two years.” 

He brings out a stack of canvasses that have already been painted and numbered representing the Psalm it is about.  His Picaso-esk style is enjoyable to view, his manner relaxed. At 67 years of age he does not appear to be in a slump. He plans to visit France in this up-coming summer. He plans to paint there along with indulging in other interest.

His newest interest is trying to read books on his new iPad.

“This is as close as I have gotten to a computer. I have had a Web site for six years and never saw it until I got this,” he laughs again, “There are a few wrong prices and a couple of names wrong but that’s all no problem. That can be handled.”

Aside from handling his new iPad and a studio with art up to its 28-foot tall ceiling, he currently handles two shows and a local studio.  His art is in gallery shows in Beaumont and Lake Charles along with his gallery in Orange at 1301 Green Street in Orange. His art can also be seen and purchased from his Web site

His life hasn’t taken the path he may have thought, but for the last 20 years C. Delle has been catching up. The craft seen in his art may have only begun as a part of relaxation after retirement, but he isn’t so relaxed he does not see the irony that he still works with plywood, nor has he given into the syndrome of so many retired as to find life is somewhat at a close. He creates and then does so again and again. Bringing to life in newand eclectic ways nudes, foods and hurricanes.