BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Like any artistic endeavor, it started with a failure — at least in the eyes of the artist.
Nathan Bishop painted his first high school football field for Canyon Ridge in 2010 with an idea. He bought the largest tarp he could find, projected the school’s logo onto it and cut out a template.
But the never-ending Twin Falls wind proved that plan a bust as he fought to keep the template in place while painting the Riverhawk logo at midfield, the Idaho Statesman reported.
“It was terrible,” Bishop said with a laugh. “But I did it and it was alright. It was just not very cool and not very big.”
Nine years later, “big” and “cool” only begin to describe Bishop’s work. He has quickly made a name for himself as Idaho’s premier field artist, emblazoning logos, images and tributes on athletic fields from Caldwell to Blackfoot.
Week after week, he turns bland football fields into works of art with argyle-style end zones and paintings at midfield stretching 20, 30, 40, even 60 yards wide. Highlights include military figurines for the Service Bowl (Canyon Ridge vs. Twin Falls), Jerome’s logo under the Perrine Bridge for the Battle of the Bridge (Jerome vs. Twin Falls) and a hand raising Twin Falls’ helmet, which he called his most intricate work to date.
Bishop started painting the yard lines for Canyon Ridge when his son played football for the Riverhawks. But his creative itch soon got the best of the co-owner of Creative Carpentry in Twin Falls.
“I have to have my hands in all kinds of different things because that’s what I really kind of thrive on,” Bishop said. “That’s what keeps me going. It’s definitely an artistic release for me.
“I mean, the next day, whenever I get out of bed, I can’t hardly stand up straight. I have a bad back, and I have to wear a back brace. Now I’m supposed to have surgery. But you know, it’s just, I just enjoy it so much, so I keep doing it.”
After his failed tarp template, Bishop moved on to sketching his ideas on graph paper. He divides the paper and field into yard lines and pieces the final project together grid by grid, largely freehanding his work with the help of a few control lines and strings.
Some schools offer him ideas he builds off. Others just turn him loose and ask him to paint whatever he wants. Depending on the project, he estimates it takes him five to eight hours to finish a field. He said the work goes faster with his wife, Kim, by his side.
“She knows what I want and how I want it, and we can just rock and roll,” Bishop said. “She’s my sidekick . She’s been out there with me in the snow and the wind and the rain. (My business partner Blaise Kent) always says you better hang onto her because no one else would ever put up with that.”
Evidence of his work spread through social media, where Kimberly football coach Rich Bishop, his younger brother, has done most of the promotion. Visiting teams and opponents scouting on film also have created a buzz. Now, programs throughout Southern Idaho track him down whenever they need to inject their rivalry games, homecomings or senior nights with a big-game atmosphere.
“We take pride in our facilities, and the kids know that,” said Vallivue Athletic Director Tony Brulotte, who hired Bishop for the Falcons’ home playoff game last year. “But when they saw we went above and beyond for them, you saw a different demeanor. You saw kids that were excited, kids that couldn’t wait to get onto the field.”
The attention has made Bishop’s services a hot ticket. Twin Falls High hired him to maintain all of its fields after his son graduated from Canyon Ridge, so the Bruins’ home games remain his bread and butter. But he’s traveled around Southern Idaho during Twin Falls’ road games, including stops at Vallivue, Jerome, Kimberly, Filer, Snake River, Wendell and Dietrich.
He’s also spruced up fields for the 4A high school and American Legion baseball state tournaments, and regularly decorates the baseball and softball diamonds for the College of Southern Idaho.
He’ll return to Jerome this week for the next Battle of the Bridge game against Twin Falls.
Most middle-aged men fish, hunt or bowl for hobbies. Instead, Bishop would rather spend his free time giving back to schools and creating memories for high school athletes.
“It’s crazy how it’s expanded. It’s not for the money,” said Bishop, who estimates he makes $1.50 to $2 per hour. “I charge a little bit, but people always say why don’t I do it for a living. Well, I’d just be a starving artist.”
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com