Mining the sketchbooks

Cheetah by Will Bushell on Society 6
Cheetah by Will Bushell on Society 6

The thing about most fine art is that for some reason, artists only show the latest work.  It’s as though artwork is like food and “goes off” ,has a “sell by date” or “best before date”.  Often when artists have a show in a gallery, only the latest work is shown and if it doesn’t sell, it goes back to the studio to lean against a wall.  The beauty of going online with work is that suddenly you look at all your work with fresh eyes.  And, hey, it didn’t “go off”, it’s still good and should be out there to be enjoyed by more than one person.  So what I’m leading up to is that this particular drawing in ink of a cheetah, is from an old sketchbook of Will’s, from way back in 1966!  And I love it!  And I like that it’s out there to be enjoyed as a print, or even a tote bag!  And why not?  You can find more on our shop on Society 6.


Playing with Scanner Photography on a Sunday Afternoon

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Pinterest, saving all sorts of lovely images that inspire me.  In fact, I may be having too much fun.  Please do feel free to have a look at my Pins if you’re into Pinterst.  Anyway, I keep bumping into works done by artists I’ve never heard of before and being introduced to new ideas to explore. Now I’ve heard of scanner photography before but, I just recently found out that one of the first to play with it was Harold Feinstein. Worth looking up and enjoying.

Anyway, we should have been outside pruning the Kiwi, but I got distracted showing Will the scanner photos I’d pinned. Which of course led me to trying it out and I soon had the dried Hydrangea blooms on the scanner. Will found a handy black box to cover them in and off we went.



Then we scanned the dried Amaryllis blooms …..



Which led to layering them all in Photoshop….


Which led to wanting to add even more… a lovely silk patchwork scarf perhaps?




And now, a first try at layering all three images…




Then a second try where some of my interest in patchwork and quilting started to come into play…




And last, with some subtle changes, creating a whole new patchwork with all the images. We could have gone on but we kind of like it as it is now.




Will finds Art on Road (and there’s a book too)

Today’s post is just a bit different. Usually I post about a project that I’ve done or something Will and I have done together. Today I’m posting about Will’s first book. Yes, book.


I tend to dither and wander when I start something. But Will, very often, gets an idea and just goes with it. I’m rather in awe of that sometimes. This book is an example of that direct approach.

But first a little background. We have both always been aware of what we like to call, natural abstracts. These are natural abstract compositions found where ever, maybe on a rock found on the beach, or in an arrangement of leaves on a wet pavement, and very often marks made on road ways.

And this last idea was one that Will found irresistible. And so digital camera in hand, he started to collect all those compositions that he would see while driving or while walking.

Then he would come home, download the images, and very often he’d captured exactly what he wanted without even having to crop much. He has an eye for minimal abstract composition. We’ve been working in a software lately called inDesign, learning it for a book I’m working on about mosaic and other books for a friend. When Will had all these wonderful photos ready it just seemed natural to put them in a book. And one day there will also be a gallery show of the photos.

These are found art, not made to be drawings at all, just often a gestural line created by a road worker sealing a crack with tar. Or it could be the placement of marks on the road for those working on sewers or who knows what. But, with a creative eye looking for them, new compositions and arrangements appear.

The back cover gives an idea of the contents….

“Where others saw only lines of tar made by road way repair, or yellow street lines or numbers scrawled on the pavement to mark some sewer line and their eyes slid past them, forgotten, Will Bushell saw them for years with an artist’s eye. This book is his version of the the art found on streets and parking lots. Tar lines become gestures, yellow lines and sewer covers part of the composition. Even the grain of the pavement becomes a textural component of the art he finds there. Dodging oncoming traffic and often having to wait for the moment when traffic allows, he captures his shots and shares them in this book.”



I’ve picked out a few to show here. Just a little taster of what’s in the book. Feel free to check out the whole book on the Blurb website, it’s listed under Fine Art Photography. We hope you enjoy it and maybe it will be an introduction to you finding Found Art Abstracts. Enjoy!

Yellow A
Yellow A


The Red Quadrant Wins
The Red Quadrant Wins


Lateral Adjustment
Lateral Adjustment


Equals 1
Equals 1


Blue Left
Blue Left






Dragon Alley and the Shadow Portraits


The garage sale season is pretty well over so, for the last two weekends, we’ve been giving ourselves little gallery tours. Interesting things happen when you do this, especially if you are artistically inclined. You start to really notice more around you. Looking at art recharges your creative batteries and we found ourselves taking in our surroundings with a bit more interest, a bit more spark.

For instance the lovely carving in the header was in Bastion Square and I honestly don’t believe I’d noticed it before.

Although our little tours took us all over Victoria downtown, Fort Street and Oak Bay Ave. today I’m just going to focus on a little corridor of live/work condos in Dragon Alley. Dragon Alley is in Chinatown, and on our way to Chinatown by way of Fan Tan Alley, we noticed this sign in the window of a coffee shop.


Now, we are a couple of old hippies ourselves and got quite a laugh out of this sign, obviously a collectible. But it made me pause when I think of how back in the 60’s and 70’s we were really into organic and all those values like fair trade.   We had such a hard time finding those kinds of products. And now, here they are, ubiquitous. I like to think that those hippie ideals are finally coming to fruition. Took a while but all the signs are here at last.

Ok, on with my little tour. The first thing you find when entering Dragon Alley from Fisgard St is Lyle Ink Gallery. It’s actually in the former dining room of the occupant’s condo. It’s tiny but full to bursting with exuberant art, most made by Lyle with a few pieces by a good artist from the 60’s, Roy Lichtenstein thrown in too.


The architects who designed this space had the artistic sensitivity to keep the flavour and texture of the place. This wall created from rusty panels becomes an abstract art installation with it’s rusts and color and texture.


The Alley is full of all sorts of little businesses, even a gift shop for dogs! Right next to it, we came upon this water feature wall in the space between two condos. Love the plantings and the quiet water falling into the pool below. But couldn’t help feeling that it really could have used one of our Summer House Studio cast stone sculptures. Maybe I should have dropped them a card…..


You enter Dragon Alley through a long brick lined corridor between two buildings. You exit the same way. I had to catch this long view as we left the Alley.


Leaving the Alley, I just happened to look down as I crossed the street in the bright sunshine and really noticed my shadow. It sparked a little impromptu art photography. Bill and I quickly got into the fun of it, playing and creating portraits with our shadows. See what a little gallery hopping can do?  The last one is my favourite.




I leave you with a few of the relatively new galleries, not in Dragon Alley, but all eclectic, experimental, and fun that we re-discovered and in one case, discovered for the first time. One is View Art Gallery on, you guessed it, View Street, also in a condo main floor. The other is Polychrome Fine Arts on Fort Street. And the last in Oak Bay, a photography gallery called Luz Gallery.  And thinking back to the Hippie sign in the window, maybe just my imagination, but all these galleries sort of bring to mind those “hippie” days so full of new ideas and new ways of thinking.


A Study in Contrast or How I Created Two Very Different Mosaics from the Same Shards

detail, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell,

A month ago, picking through all my bits of ocean tumbled pottery, I’d started a new pique assiette mosaic mirror. You would think that picking bits from the exact same basin of shards, I would come up with almost the exact same mirror frame that I’d created back in January. That was when I’d first started experimenting with these smooth, aged and beach sanded shards.

Beach Pottery shards,

And maybe, I might have. But as I was arranging shards, I found myself attracted to the lighter pieces, the undersides of plates, the curves and how they created a pattern and a movement.

Stealing time here and there from other things, I finally got to the stage of grouting last Friday. And accompanied by the soundtrack to “Monsoon Wedding” CD, ( another lucky garage sale find), mixed up a a couple of different grouts until I got a shade to my liking and grouted it up. BTW, if you have never seen Monsoon Wedding I’d highly recommend it. The movie is colorful, lively and has great music…..but at the end, for all of us mosaic lovers, there is a wedding scene in a mosaic covered grotto. I just kept playing that scene over and over trying to take in the mosaics. And yes that is an old toothbrush, that I’m using to clean off grout. And you thought there wasn’t another use for them.

grouting, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell,

I was struck by the contrasting frames that I’d created with almost the same ingredients. All the result of my choices from the pool of shards. I couldn’t resist hanging them side by side to enjoy the contrast. The first mirror is a collage of all of the rusty and patterned pieces. The second mirror frame is a quiet, almost monochromatic arrangement, with the movement created by the curves as the central theme.

 Pattern and Pale Beach Pottery mirrors by Helen Bushell,

Of course, I did add a few little detailed pieces to break up the surface and add interest. In the header of this post, if you look carefully, you will find the tiniest little blue heart. In this corner you will find the few special bits I loved and a found space for, like the floral shard of some long ago shattered tea cup or a remnant of the  manufacturers mark on the bottom of the dish.

detail, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell,

And here it is, up close and personal, on a more pleasing background to highlight it’s quiet colors. I’m quite happy with it. It’s a bit of a departure for me too, the artist who likes bright and gaudy, don’t you think?

Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell,


Will’s Driftwood “Chair” Sculpture and Other Found Garden Art Whimsies

One day this summer, on a whim, Will suddenly built this driftwood chair. It’s not exactly sit-able so I think of it as being more of a sculpture. I’ve put off posting it because he keeps adding to it. But for now, it appears to be done… at least until he finds something new for embellishment.



The seat creates a nice spot for my little dish of Hen and Chicks.


Right now we are trying to decide if his latest embellishment, a spiral hanger attached to the back, should be painted something colorful. I’d like that since it would relate to the mosaic chimney in the herb garden.


More color, I always say.

We have these bits of found art all over our garden that, to us, add a great sense of whimsy to the place.


We found the old basin at a demo site years ago, and it’s nicely weathered. It’s a great place to grow succulents and we love it. So do the succulents.

One day, while out walking, Will found this rock tangled up in a piece of rusty wire and it hung on the wall for a long time before we found the perfect circle of rusty wire from an old pot, to pull the whole thing together.
The chime came together last year, oddly enough just before our wedding anniversary. The silver goblet found that day at a garage sale, where else, celebrated some other couples long ago anniversary.


Will put the whole thing together that day as a special gift for me. Friends and relatives have loved it too and he’s made quite a few now from bits and pieces. Seems we’re always looking for good old silverware for another one.

Some of these serendipitous sculptures never really get finished. Will just keeps adding to them.


I like to call this one his bird playground and one day he added this rusty colander to it. Just the right addition.


The Creeping Jaguar, Jazz, Brides and a Crimson Dragonfly

Saturday was one of those days that dawns with cloudless blue skies, warm breezes and the whole day ahead of us to enjoy. We had our cereal on the deck while surveying our wild garden. Just a couple of days before a hummingbird had come right up on the deck to drink nectar from a flowering succulent right before our eyes, oblivious of our presence. I had to take a memory shot, hoping to keep this forever in my memory, since as is usual when something like this happens, no camera at hand.

The day was planned, garage sailing in the morning and Jazz in the Park in the afternoon and maybe a little gardening as the top off at the end of the day.
Garage sailing started off well. Free stuff! Got a nice big basket to hide an ugly plant pot in the green house that houses what I like to call the Avocadon’t, an avocado plant grown froma sprouted avocado pit that Will had rescued from the compost heap. It is now about 4 feet tall! No avocados though. Just this big hulking plant that requires lots of water.

Then on to Esquimalt to find more good stuff at other sales. On the way, while stopped at a little store, I spied this odd assembly in a window.

The goose ornament and it's rooster buddy
The goose ornament and it’s rooster buddy

A large goose ornament almost tipping out of the window, seemed to be enjoying the day, with a rooster inside next to it.

Odd graffiti in an odd spot
Odd graffiti in an odd spot

And on the wall outside, for some unknown reason, a graffiti artist had chosen this spot to do some work which was colorful and oddly funny.

Picked up our good friend Mary Lou whom I’d convinced to leave her work behind and enjoy some good garage sailing.

This garden may be even wilder than mine
This garden may be even wilder than mine

While waiting for her to join us I spied this rampant garden, which may be even wilder than mine, I think.

Our little Subaru always wanted to be a Jaguar
Our little Subaru always wanted to be a Jaguar

In James Bay we found this stealthy black jaguar ornament with plastic orange roses that got my kitsch radar going. Had to have it. Decided to give our car a little transformation. For a few moments it was a kitschy jaguar complete with hood ornament. Ah we’re flying high now.

Later, we scarfed down a quick deli lunch complete with Nanaimo bars for dessert (Hey only one calorie, ok one very big calorie) while listening to the great jazz of Paul Wainright and his group.

Paul Wainright and the band on Stage in the park
Paul Wainright and the band on Stage in the park

This Jazz in the Park is free and can be enjoyed every Saturday afternoon at the Beacon Hill Park Bandshell. We enjoyed this immensely last summer and never heard a band we didn’t like. If you live here or are visiting, you must check this out as well as other events.

The park seemed to be full of weddings. The band had apparently been asked to stop playing jazz for 15 minutes at a certain point so that wedding vows given near the bandshell would not be overwhelmed by the concert. Before this intermission they’d jokingly played the theme to ‘Mission Impossible”.

Strolling, while the band took their break,

A beautiful crimson dragonfly by the lagoon in Beacon Hill Park
A beautiful crimson dragonfly by the lagoon in Beacon Hill Park

we came upon this stunningly gorgeous crimson dragon fly. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Then hot and tired, we headed home, ostensibly to do some gardening, but decided instead to indulge in what those who live in hot countries do, siesta.

Sunday morning found us in the garden at last. It’s amazing how good you feel after a few hours of gardening on a cool morning. Doesn’t matter what is on your mind or what aches and pains you have, somehow being out in the garden, just makes you feel great, better than any antidepressant. All in all, a very, very good weekend!