Arts & Life

Artist finds her signature style through abstract figures

On the top floor of an apartment complex on 2nd street, Kathryn Bishop’s sunny apartment doubles as her art studio. With the company of Bishop’s golden retriever Stanley and walls dressed with her artwork, Bishop creates.

Though Bishop has been an artist her whole life, in the last three years she’s developed her own signature style using differently weighted ink pens for two-dimensional line work. Her art captures fluid movements of abstract figures, usually black and white, and mostly female, though some feature male and androgynous figures.

Bishop pets her golden retriever Stanley while sitting at her desk with her artwork.
Bishop pets her golden retriever Stanley while sitting at her desk with her artwork. Photo credit: Kelsey Brown

For some pieces, Bishop adds watercolor to the background, or uses a beige tone paper to add dimension. Doing things like adding layers of black or white gesso acrylic paint to a piece keeps her from getting burnt out.

“It’s like little variations in what I use,” Bishop said. “Still doing the same figure or style, but adding in just that little different element. I feel like it’s just like a whole new world.”

Before Bishop embraced her individual style of art, she said she painted what she felt artists were supposed to create. She painted realistic “big, vibrant, bright portraits” with lively colors that were difficult for her to do.

Though Bishop said she’s proud of the portraits she created in the past, it was not enjoyable in the same way that her art is now. While painting portraits felt like something she had to do, Bishop says her current style of art feels natural and gives her confidence in her artistry.

“I always drew figures like this, and I just called them my doodles,” Bishop said. “It wasn’t until I finally embraced my doodles as art that I feel like I really found my voice.”

Bishop’s artwork is inspired by movement and fluidity. Her paintings, though often muted in color, are dynamic and energetic.

Her finished pieces consist of clean lines, but Bishop says her process starts with “chicken scratch” of pencil on paper. Bishop starts with the body, usually the legs, and builds the rest from that. Usually, the head is decapitated in some way.

“I might have a picture that inspires me that is of one pose, and then the finished thing is nothing like it,” Bishop said. “It’s like it just danced on the page to something else—to what it was supposed to be.”

Her line work, an integral part of her art, has been influenced by the work that Bishop does during the day working as an architectural inspector in Palos Verdes. She assists people through the construction process, from submitting plans for approval to building it.

Bishop works on her latest creation using ink pens on tone paper.
Bishop works on her latest creation using ink pens on tone paper. Photo credit: Kelsey Brown

Bishop wanted to go to art school, but didn’t get in. Now Bishop says she sees it as a blessing, as she’s been able to find her own path. Being exposed to blueprints on a daily basis, specifically hand-drawn architectural designs, has influenced Bishop’s work, she said.

It wasn’t until an architect pointed out that her work was architectural that Bishop began to see it. Her work is is structural and balanced, and Bishop said architecture has helped her to notice the importance of weight and precision. Bishop said her art is a meeting point of two worlds that don’t often go together.

“I always thought that it was like art when you would see these hand-drawn elevations or just day-to-day plans being submitted,” Bishop said.

Bishop said for her art is “therapeutic,” and how she’s feeling often comes across naturally in her artwork. It isn’t until after she paints that Bishop is able to derive the emotion or experience that her artwork is portraying.

One piece on Bishop’s wall features a figure with a body painted dark and stormy. The face is painted white with the words ‘I’m fine’ written on it, representing the face people often feel pressured to present to the world.

“There’s depth to it,” Bishop said. “This natural meaning comes out of it even though it’s not planned at the beginning.”

Bishop’s said she hopes to continue to get her work out there, specifically “on the walls.” Bishop has only found her artistic voice in recent years, and in the years to come she said she hopes to continue to foster that same type of growth in her artwork while portraying the body in new, expressive ways.

Bishop said she feels privileged and happy to have found an artistic outlet that she’s passionate about, but to also be able to create artwork that people like.

“It’s not work,” Bishop said. “It’s something that I love to do.”

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