We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Kimberley Bates. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Kimberley below.
Hi Kimberley, thanks for joining us today. Let’s start with education – we’d love to hear your thoughts about how we can better prepare students for a more fulfilling life and career.
I’d like to slightly rephrase this question… “How can we prepare HUMANS for a more fulfilling life and better relationships?”
Our nation is experiencing crisis and polarization in so many areas right now… politics, media, corporate America, human rights… We fight, we bicker, we get angry, we throw “adult tantrums” and end up creating even more separation and disconnection from each other.
At the heart of this is our lack of self-awareness and ability to effectively communicate, empathize, and accept differences in opinion respectfully so that we can calmly, rationally, and mindfully find solutions to the problems of the world’s macro and micro communities.
As a strong proponent of mental health awareness, I know that these behavioral and communication habits begin in childhood. They are learned from the parents, adults, and others around us.
The simple truth: We are all human and we all experience difficult emotions.
But when those strong emotions have nowhere to go… When they are dismissed, shut down and met with a lack of empathy by those we trust to teach and protect us, the seeds of disconnection, imposter syndrome, anger, and hate are planted and we begin building walls around ourselves. However, If we are given a safe and empathetic space to experience our inevitable emotional discomfort, we learn to accept ourselves, regulate our feelings appropriately, and are more able to deeply love and accept others for who they are.
As a child, I knew that my emotions ran deep, and for me, art class was one of the only places I felt truly safe to be myself and express everything I needed to, good or bad. It breaks my heart that art programs are quickly disappearing from our schools. The issue is so much more nuanced than districts simply deprioritizing creative skills or reprioritizing “academic learning“. For many people, practicing art (like journaling, exercising, meditating, etc) is an incredibly necessary and therapeutic modality that helps them process emotion and feel balanced. How could we take this opportunity to learn about something so vital to our mental health away from our children? Again, it’s heartbreaking and causing more problems for our future adults than we can fathom.
In addition to bringing the arts back into schools as a therapeutic modality, I believe there should be a curriculum dedicated to learning empathy, acceptance, and healthy communication practices (that isn’t only available in private schools or tied to a specific religious course). We need to prioritize accessibility of these vital life skills instead of assigning a religious or financial class affiliation and immediately alienating masses of people. Just as we learn about our physical bodies and sexual function in health class, we should also be learning that our mental and emotional well-being is included in the definition of “health” and is equally as important to be aware of. Our brain and our emotions live within our bodies, after all.
We have such an amazing opportunity to turn our educators into so much more than history or science teachers. What would an empathetic math class look like? How would teachers’ interactions with students change and set a better and healthier example of discourse? I believe that if we begin to take a more holistic approach to education… Providing the necessary tools for mental, emotional, physical AND academic intelligence, we will eventually begin to see more whole and balanced adults, better equipped to appropriately face the future and its challenges.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
My pleasure! I’m a full time artist, creative director, brand consultant, and speaker (focused on women’s empowerment and emotional health).
ABOUT KBates ART
–My art is primarily focussed on “Painting Women the World Needs” ~ Powerful, Graceful, Unapologetic, Growing… Supporting each other. I sell my Original Paintings and Fine Art Prints, Commissions for Private Collectors, and Commercial Illustration.
Painting is an incredibly emotive, therapeutic, and spiritual experience for me AND my portrait subjects. There is a beautiful energy and connection created. Art is my love language. I love to show people the beauty and strength I see in them. My mission is to help women feel empowered and remind them of who they are: powerful, capable, impressive, beautiful, and enough.
I hope women will see themselves in my paintings and be inspired to celebrate the incredible strength, resilience, and capacity for growth inside themselves. I aim to encourage positive self-awareness and serve as a reminder to embrace the beauty, complexity and authenticity that lies within.
MY BACKGROUND & STORY
I grew up in northern California and have lived all over this beautiful state. I’ve been drawn to art since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and I declared my intention of becoming an artist at the ripe old age of 3. Sometimes, you just know! Since then, art has permeated just about every area of my life. I discovered my love for portraiture in high school and started selling my first commissions at age 15. Despite excelling in many academic areas and feeling pressure to pursue a “safe and professional” career, I knew my path would be creative.
In an effort to “be smart” and avoid the dreaded “starving artist” fate I’d been taught to fear, I decided to set aside fine art and pursue my second love, graphic design. After all “computers pay the bills” right? I moved to San Francisco, started my first super-fancy agency design job, and began a 16 year journey building a successful career in brand strategy, design and marketing. I worked on hundreds of big consumer brands and helped silicon valley start-ups take their brand design to the “next level”. My work is STILL on display in numerous big brand retail chains across the country and helping those companies thrive. But, was I happy? Kind of. I was becoming very aware that I had been suppressing the urge to return to my art and that I was battling the fear of leaping.
At this point, I was ready to leave that fear behind in a BIG way. I made the decision to leave the bay area to start a new chapter of life on my own in sunny San Diego. Because, why not? Soon after, I left my corporate job and made a commitment to myself to finally go ALL IN on my passion. I still provide creative direction and brand consulting for founder-led startups and small business clients because I love design and helping mission-driven companies formulate their brand vision and bring it to life. But I’m thrilled to be refocusing much more of my creative energy on my art. It’s been a long time dream to show my work in galleries, create healing works for my collectors, and further explore my artistic vision. And I’m just getting started!
Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more?
The story of my side hustle – KBates Art and public speaking becoming a full-time claim on my energy and attention is really a story of how I eventually gained the courage to acknowledge and honor my dreams and vision for my life. Fear is a wicked thing, and our wildest, most exciting, joy-inspiring dreams would certainly be a LOT to lose. But never giving those dreams a TRUE chance at becoming reality is an even greater loss. The moment we finally accept that half-assing something we deeply care about isn’t going to cut it is the moment our souls catch fire and our realities shift immediately for the better, regardless of outcome.
I think the fact that my main hustle – corporate design/ creative direction – was so rooted in the creative realm and closely related to my desire to be a full-time artist actually made it more difficult for me to realize these truths. It was too easy for me to find comfort in the narrative that design was also art and that working for someone else was safer than working for myself, so I should be happy, right?
So for over 15 years I worked my way up in the corporate world, moving companies or applying for more distinguished titles every time I felt that gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction with my job. At the same time, I couldn’t kick the desire to engage with my fine art and entrepreneurial energy, so I would start various small creative businesses along the way. I opened an online merch store featuring my designs, started an arts event circuit (literally called “Side Hustle”), and even launched a candle making business. But despite great feedback, encouragement and superficial success, none of these businesses went anywhere. It wasn’t because they weren’t good enough ideas or that they failed. It was because putting my energy into those side-hustles was my version of “beating around the bush” and trying to achieve fulfillment without actually risking anything. I wasn’t putting all my energy into doing the one thing I REALLY wanted to do.
I believe this realization is a key milestone for all entrepreneurs who want to make their side hustle their main hustle. If you don’t truly love or believe in what you are doing (or you’re fooling yourself into believing that your safe/ “almost-there idea” is satisfying) the likelihood of success is very low, no matter how great the idea. And the likelihood that you will take the leap necessary in order to put all of your energy into that idea is even lower.
There are business gurus out there that would have you believe you have no chance at launching a successful business unless you jump in with both feet and devote 100% of your energy. But it’s not actually the jump that is the predictor of success. It’s whether you’re able to get brutally honest with yourself about what you actually desire and answer the question “do you wholeheartedly love what you’re setting out to do?” Being willing to take the leap, and the likelihood that you’ll actually do it, is just a byproduct of this wholehearted “YES!”
Getting to the YES is a whole other story. For me, it took many years of thinking I could be happy with the “almost-there idea”, becoming fatigued of the same old 9-5 annoyances popping up over and over, and eventually burning out because my energy was spread so thin. My body forced me to take a step back and reevaluate. After a short break and a lot of much-needed brutal self-honesty, I quickly started making decisions in complete alignment with my true desires and purpose. It’s been incredible to see how courage has an amazing way of compounding.
First, I was craving support, so I set out to build a community of like-minded entrepreneurial women around me. I did my first scary/ exciting thing and joined a women’s circle. I knew no one and had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve ever done for myself. They became my spiritual safety net and helped me to replenish and “fill my cup”, which then gave me the courage to make even bigger moves. I left the “almost great” city I’d been living in for so long in search of “great.” I found it! And after two years living in “great”, I saw my lowered tolerance for “less than great” transform many areas of my life. This included staying in a job that didn’t light me up. So I finally leapt with intention. After taking a couple months of MUCH needed R&R, I started exploring and building my art business. Coincidentally, I also began discovering how important mental and emotional advocacy for women and children was to me.
Now, 8 months in, my life looks completely different. I have a fully functioning e-commerce site where I sell my art, I am actively participating in community art events and shows, I’m learning an incredible amount about running and growing a business, and I’m delighted to feel genuinely engaged in all these activities. I’m receiving commission requests, starting to see sales, and have been getting invited to speak at various womens’ organizations, on podcasts, and at events to tell my story and share my creative philosophies.
Ironically, there may eventually be a need to take on another corporate position or other type of job to fund this dream while it’s still in its growth state. However, I’m finding that after finally starting the adventure down this new and aligned path, I no longer dread the idea because perspective has shifted. It would now be a means to an end, in service of my greater purpose… instead of an “almost great” substitute for my purpose.
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
Absolutely. For as long as I can remember I’ve gravitated towards painting people and capturing the unique expressions that represented who they are at their core. More specifically, I love painting women.
When I was a kid, I knew I was exceptionally emotional and sensitive to the people and energy around me. I had a lot to express and painting on the canvas was one of the only places I felt completely safe and comfortable allowing that expression to come out. It made me feel like my voice was heard. So I’ve always felt very passionate about painting and speaking to bring awareness to how vitally important the arts are for helping our young people to develop healthy ways of processing emotion.
As I got older, I realized that I loved painting women with powerful, intense and ambiguous expressions because it inevitably created discussion. It encouraged the viewer to be curious and ask questions. These interactions became some of the most important and meaningful experiences of my life. They were vulnerable, authentic, free of judgement and created a beautiful common ground and connection. I hope my work inspires others to have those same conversations about emotional expression that lead to amazing experiences of connection. These are the types of conversations our world needs more of.
And finally… I know so many incredible, powerful, resilient, strong, accomplished, and insanely impressive women (single mothers, cancer and abuse survivors, recovering addicts, etc) and the hardships they’ve overcome have only made them more impressive. Yet they still struggle to see their own light and to feel like they are enough. It’s heartbreaking and even maddening. So perhaps my GREATEST privilege and desire for my work is that it serves as a reminder of their strength, beauty, the crown they wear, and to show them what an inspiration they truly are to everyone.
- Website: https://www.kbatesart.com/
- Instagram: @kbates_art
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kbatesart
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kabates/
Main Photo and mural photo: Carlene Kanellis, IG @carlenekanellis