Delle Bates and his childhood friends played and danced near the graves of governors. His hometown of Winnfield, population 7,000, had become the cradle of Louisiana’s political kings, such as O. K. Allen, Huey P. Long and Earl K. Long. Although his father was himself a political icon in those parts, the defining stroke for Bates that would paint his place in the world came not from a politician but from an educator. “A teacher bragged on me and that just fired me up,” Bates recalls. His breakthrough as an artist would come decades down the road. After working in the timber industry, in 1977 he began his own business, C. Delle Bates & Associates, breaking ground as an adhesive innovator in the plywood business. Having had a successful run for eighteen years Bates sold his business in 1995 and was able to indulge his lifelong dream to create art full time. “It was kind of an escape,” he says. “I never had time to paint when I owned my own company. But, since I’ve sold it I’ve had the time and that’s how you really learn to paint.” Angels, inspired by the French artist Jean Cocteau, grace the clerestory windows of his downtown Orange, Texas studio. The studio with its 28-foot ceiling boasts a colorful profusion of Bate’s handiwork. The formative influences of Picasso, Russian expressionist Nicholai Fechin, and the strong lines and vivid colors of Theo Tobiasse can be seen in his works. Exotic still life's are prone to harbor a Mediterranean cityscape in a terra cotta vase; seedpods bust from brilliant red poppies; animated religious icons raise the spiritual life to transcendence.

2004 represented a banner year for Bates, creating nearly 100 original works and painting fund-raising art for Art in the Park in his adopted hometown of Orange, Texas, and the Rockin’ Beaumont Blues Festival. C. Delle Bates reflects that “one of the best compliments I receive is when someone wants to buy a painting before it’s finished, while it’s still on the easel.” Today Bates is carving new vistas with arrestingly familiar features. “In the middle of last year I started painting on wood.” Although he paints on canvas, one of his newest and most unique techniques is carving defining features into the wood before applying paint, creating a new richness of expression. Bates recently learned that the technique, although new to him, is much like the one practiced by the Russian icon masters centuries ago. In a true sense, he’s reached a new resonance in his career as a craftsman. “Ironically, it’s plywood” he said of his new medium. “So I’ve come full circle.”