Using gouache, watercolor and digital artistry, Pamela Bishop creates imaginative images in her Oxford studio for her company, Follow the Magic. “I’ve always loved to paint and draw. I think there’s a lot of innocence in my paintings.” Her business started with greeting cards after a friend in Australia asked to license some of her paintings. Now, a visit to her website shows a great variety of items for all ages, including delightful, often intricate, pictures, home décor and nursery items.
Pamela’s paintings spark the imagination with their engaging animals, children, and whimsical creations. “I’ve always used my imagination. I would often be on my own [growing up] and I would make up my own stories and games and paint.” A sequence in the movie Mary Poppins has the characters jump into a painting. Pamela says, “I want people to feel like they could jump into the picture and the world they’ve created. Maybe, if they’re adults, it will take them back to their childhood.”
However, painting was not the beginning of this creativity. She began dancing when she was seven, attending a professional theatre arts school in England. After finishing there, her first job (at 17) was in a cabaret show in Monte Carlo. “It was so exciting. They really looked after us.” Due to their age the young dancers had to be interviewed every three months at the British Embassy in Cannes to make sure they were well taken care of well. “We danced in front of Princess Grace. We met a lot of European stars.”
When she joined the Bluebell Girls to perform in Las Vegas in November 1974, the MGM Grand Hotel was still under construction. “It was just thrilling at that age; I was just 18. I was there for 2 1⁄2 years. We met so many stars there.” She got many autographs for her niece including those of Michael Jackson and Donnie Osmond. She also gave her niece a white scarf that Elvis had thrown into the audience. “She’s still got it.”
At 20 she returned to England and became a dancer on the television show, “The Musical Time Machine” as one of the Young Generation Dancers. A choreographer with whom she worked is Nigel Lythgoe, who is a producer of “American Idol” and a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Additionally, she appeared on the humorous “Benny Hill Show” as one of the “Naughty Nurses.”
Pamela also modeled. Each year the International Wool Secretariat in Australia would choose one model to represent her country, modeling its wool fashions. At 23 she was chosen as the British Wool Ambassadress. The schedule was rigorous and not always glamorous; after a day of changing outfits “backstage” (near the sheep) and modeling several shows a day, she could have an evening photo shoot.
Then she went to China. “I was one of the first European models to go to China for the Wool Secretariat. What an amazing trip! Everyone rode bicycles. The billboards were painted. Every time our bus would stop everyone would crowd the bus and put their hands on your head for good luck. [She has red hair.] They were sweet, lovely people; they were so gentle. Some had never seen a camera before. The little children smiled for the camera.”
In Hong Kong she choreographed fashion shows and dubbed Chinese kung fu movies into English. “We would start at 10 or 11 o’clock at night and be playing 4 or 5 characters on a page. You had to do different voices. Chinese movies are shown in other parts of Asia whose second language is English.”
She moved to Australia first to teach at a modeling school, but later became a children’s theatrical agent. “I absolutely loved it. It was one of my favorite jobs ever.” She sent one 15-year-old client for a one-episode role in a soap opera. “He got so much fan mail they wrote him into it.”
Pamela’s imagination never stops as she looks around at people and places. “Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘I hope I don’t forget that.'” Evaluating her art, she says, “I want people to be happy. I want to make them smile.”
Written by Terry Callahan and originally published in the Talbot Guide in December 2016