High School Football

Idaho’s Picasso of the gridiron: Carpenter creates stunning works for big football games

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.

“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.

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Fields painted by Twin Falls resident Nathan Bishop. Clockwise from top left, Canyon Ridge, Vallivue, Twin Falls and Snake River. Courtesy of Nathan Bishop

“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.”

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A selection of fields Nathan Bishop has painted for Idaho high schools. Clockwise from top left, the Battle of the Bridge between Jerome and Twin Falls, Filer High, the Twin Falls Shriner’s all-star game and military figures for the Service Bowl between Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge. Courtesy of Nathan Bishop

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.”

Centennial vs. Timberline, 7 p.m. Thursday at Dona Larsen Park

Timberline (1-2) snapped a 12-game losing streak last week with a furious, 20-point rally in the final 2 minutes. With the monkey off their backs, expect the Wolves to make some noise in the playoff race.

Timberline 28, Centennial 22

Capital at Rocky Mountain, 7 p.m. Friday

After three road games to open the season, No. 1-ranked Rocky Mountain (3-0) finally gets to play on its home field against a marquee opponent.

The Grizzlies, winners of 15 straight, have showed no signs of slowing down. Rocky Mountain fields another stout defense that has allowed just 7.3 points per game while forcing nine turnovers in three weeks. That spells trouble for a Capital (2-1) squad that has committed nine turnovers of its own and has yet to get on track offensively.

Rocky Mountain 32, Capital 21

Eagle at Skyview, 7 p.m. Friday

Skyview (0-3) pulled off the upset last year on Eagle’s home turf. Expect the second-ranked Mustangs (3-0) to exact some revenge.

Eagle 42, Skyview 14

Meridian vs. Borah, 11 a.m. Saturday at Dona Larsen Park

It’s hard to call any game in September a must-win. But for two clubs with postseason plans sitting at 1-2, this Saturday morning affair is as close as it gets. A loss makes the road to one of the league’s five guaranteed playoff berths tough, forcing the loser to rely on an at-large bid.

In big-time games, always bet on Borah’s do-everything Austin Bolt.

Borah 30, Meridian 27

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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