If you happen to see Jill Bates strolling along a Cotuit beach or garden path, don’t be insulted if she doesn’t return your wave. She is likely enraptured with the world at her feet, admiring the intricacies of creatures that go unnoticed to most.
For Jill, taking an expansive view and focusing on the burgeoning life of a single alcove, tide pool, or budding plant within it has become a pillar of her artistic style. “I really want art to be an intimate thing,” she explains. “If you get down on the same level as the plants, they look totally different. While it’s important to look up, I think it’s equally important to look down.”
Her most recent work, titled “Star Tapestry,” is a perfect example of this attention to detail, conveying the intricacies of a starfish-laden Cape tide pool.
“Star Tapestry,” like many of her more recent works, is an oil painting. But, Jill’s preferred medium has not always been oil; in fact, throughout Jill’s artistic career, she has experimented with many mediums. An adult education class led her first to pastels, which she treasured for their immediacy compared to other mediums that often need time to dry before work can resume. “You’re in the same frame of mind the whole time you’re working on a pastel piece,” she says.
Jill has harbored a passion for art her whole life, and cannot recall a time when she didn’t love to create. She was inspired early on by the eye-catching hues of the Impressionist color palette. “It was so rich; it almost makes you want to take a bite out of it,” Jill insists.
She was faithful to pastels for years before chance altered her artistic trajectory. After moving to Cape Cod from Atlanta, Jill was unsure how to proceed with her artistic career, and was amazed by the amount of talent on the Cape. While she was trying to find her new niche, a friend asked Jill if she would paint with her elderly mother once a week for company. Jill obliged, and soon the duo expanded to a group of three, then four, until there were eight ladies who gathered once a week to paint together.
“We’re the Art Girls,” Jill laughs. “The Art Girls have been a huge support to me. They encourage me and they come to all my shows.” And, it was the Art Girls’ preference for oil paints that led Jill to her current medium.
“Every time I do a painting now, I learn something new. Doing pastels taught me to approach the canvas with a plan.”
The transition from pastel to oil painting produced a fair share of frustrations for Jill, but ultimately both mediums taught her invaluable techniques. “Every time I do a painting now, I learn something new. Doing pastels taught me to approach the canvas with a plan,” she explains.
Planning is also crucial to Jill’s current style. Her pieces are not one single picture, but a series of intricate images combined into one cohesive work. “I build a world, but I have to have a foundation or it will make no sense,” explains Jill, who believes capturing the rhythm of nature is paramount to the success of her work. “I build paintings out of many images starting with the foundation.”
However, even after many years, Jill often doubts her own work. “Starting is the hardest part,” she says, “figuring out where you’re going.” But, even after the initial hurdle, another tenuous moment arises when Jill is scrutinizing her half-completed art to ensure it is accurately capturing nature’s rhythm. “There’s always a point where you hate it,” she says honestly. “You get past it, but almost every time, I hit that minute of doubt. My art has to make sense.”
Jill has found her niche in capturing the intricacies of landscapes, frequently only a few feet in diameter. Her art is now displayed at a gallery owned by Jill and her husband, Tim, who has been a constant support throughout her career. The gallery, Chapman Art Gallery, houses Jill’s art and that of other talented artists and has been a dream for both Jill and Tim.
Finding that niche may have been difficult, but Jill accepts challenge as part of the process. “I believe that things that deeply affect you come out in your work,” concludes Jill. “My art will always be a reflection of my continuing journey.” – Hannah Kunze