Joan Bates was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire and studied as Joan Elliott at the Sheffield College of Art from 1947-49. She subsequently won a place at the Slade School of Fine Art where she studied painting and etching from 1949-52.
On moving to London Joan lived in Bloomsbury and much enjoyed her student life at University College where she met a wide variety of interesting people both at the Slade and in other faculties. She considers herself fortunate to have been there when William Coldstream was Slade Professor; there was some outstanding teaching and many notable artists emerged from the climate he created.
After three years at the Slade, Joan received a D.F.A. (London) and followed this by teaching. She later undertook some free-lance illustration commissions while working part-time in a London bookshop. She worked for the BBC on a programme about the Promenade Concerts in which she interviews many people from Sir Malcolm sargent to the composer Daniel Jones. She worked for a time as an assistant to James Strachey who was translating the Standard Edition of Freud.
In 1954 Joan married. After living for a short time in Hampstead and Brighton she and her husband moved to Hertfordshire where their three sons were born. It was only when the family became more independent, some fifteen years later, that Joan returned first to teaching and then to her own painting. She later resumed printmaking, using first the facilities at the Hertfordshire College of Art, St Albans and then those at Burleighfield Arts Centre, Buckinghamshire before finally acquiring her own etching press.
Her work is mainly inspired by light - the way in which it illuminates land, sea, figure or still-life - and by whichever medium she had chosen to use. She is fluent in a wide variety of media - oils, watercolours, pen and ink, etching and lithography - though is perhaps happiest with pure drawing or painting in oils. Her interest in people has resulted in a wide range of portraits, while many of her landscapes are inspired by the light of East Anglia, its cornfields, estuaries, beaches, by the Welsh shoreline and the light and warmth of the Mediterranean. She exhibits widely, has won a number of awards and lives and works by the river in Marlow.