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Art fit for the Queen

On a recent visit to Canada House in London, England Queen Elizabeth entered a room walking upon a rug based on the art of a former Yorkton resident.

On a recent visit to Canada House in London, England Queen Elizabeth entered a room walking upon a rug based on the art of a former Yorkton resident.

“The interior design company for Foreign Affairs Canada solicited me last March to submit artwork designs for the renovations at Canada House in London, England,” explained Billie Rae Busby (formerly Sparrow). “I felt honoured that they contacted me directly, and especially when they chose to commission me for two designs. The designs were created into bespoke hand-tufted rugs. My ‘chinook’ design is in the Alberta Room and my ‘northern lights’ design is in the Laurier Room.”

And then Busby, who was born and raised in Yorkton moving to Saskatoon for University, learned of the ‘royal’ moment.

“I saw a photo of the Laurier Room rug on Facebook and called my dad to tell him and he said, ‘Well, didn’t you see the news? The Queen walked on it today’,” she said. “I found the footage online, and yes, she does walk on my ‘northern lights’ carpet.

Busby said the knowledge brought emotions with it.

“I was super excited,” she said. “To be honest, I still am.

“As an artist, I am especially pleased because that rug is in one of the premier rooms in Canada House. It is a huge compliment to my artistic design.”

Busby said her love of art certainly has Yorkton roots.

“I was fortunate to have fantastic art teachers in junior high and high school,” she said. “Sandra MacColl taught me at Yorkdale in Junior High and my art teacher in high school at the Regional was Diane Koch. I vividly remember Grade 11 and 12 art with Ms. Koch and really finding my skill for drawing in her class through her encouragement and advice. I won the Art award in my graduating year (1993). I have a lot of respect for the art teachers who taught me in Yorkton.”

From Yorkton Busby continued to follow an artistic path.

“At University of Saskatchewan, I pursued two areas of interest; sport and art,” she said.

In 1998 she completed two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education (Sport Management) and a Bachelor of Art (Studio Art).

“I didn’t go just to art school as I wanted a career in sports management,” said Busby.

“Today, I do both professionally. In the last 10-years, I have also been enrolled in several extended studies courses at Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) to learn new techniques.”

After her time at the U of S, Busby, now 40, turned west.

“Our family has roots in Calgary and area so I had always anticipated that I would move to Calgary,” she said. “A year after graduating from university, my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Calgary because he was accepted into the journalism program at SAIT.

“In 1999, I started working in advertising and over the years, have found my path into sports management. For the last seven years, I work full-time at SAIT Polytechnic as Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the SAIT Trojans athletic department.”

While pursuing a career related to sports, Busby said she also sees herself as a professional artist.

“While my full-time career is with the SAIT Trojans, I still consider myself a professional artist, just not a full-time artist,” she explained.

“Time is certainly an issue, as we have two young children as well, but I commit to finding time to paint and focus on the business aspects of my art career. My studio is in our home, in the basement, and my husband, Ian, is very supportive in helping me carve out some dedicated painting hours on a regular basis.”

Since her youth in Yorkton Busby’s art has evolved.

“I used to create representational drawings (such as the Yorkton Terriers prints we made in 1994), but began to get bored with drawing,” she related.

“While taking night classes at Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, my instructor Christopher Willard taught me the hard-edge painting technique. I use masking tape to create clean, sharp lines. It looks easy, but takes a while to perfect.

“I still haven’t.”

And then there was one of those epiphany moments for Busby as an artist.

“In 2007, my instructor Chris asked me, why are you interested in painting lines?” she said. “I didn’t have an answer. It wasn’t until we were travelling back to Yorkton on road trip to see my ill mom when I took notice of the way the landscape looked like from the car. The dynamic sky and the horizon line really peaked my interest. I started painting landscapes with hard-edge lines at the next art class. We travelled to Yorkton a lot over that next year as mom battled cancer. I took tons of photos of the landscapes during those road trips. She passed away in 2008. I feel nostalgic and a sense of home when I paint these landscapes.”

Busby said her works come from seeing the atypical Prairie skies and sunsets with a more modern eye.

While not the more traditional landscape art, Busby said people are liking her interpretation on such a common theme.

“My work is getting a very positive response by patrons and critics,” she said, adding that include from people in her old hometown. “Through social media, I am in touch with a lot of people in Yorkton. The comments are very positive and supportive. I have a lot of new fans from back home.”

Busby actually showed one of my early landscape works at the Godfrey Dean a while back, but she said being exhibited under her married name “some people may not have realized that was mine.”

In terms of response Busby also recently won the Painters Key Emerging Artist award from Federation of Canadian Artists.

And more lies ahead for Busby and her art.

“I am preparing for an exhibition at the Calgary Stampede this summer in which I will be showing at least 10 new paintings,” she said.

“As well, I have a solo show scheduled at the Okotoks Art Gallery in September.”

Could a Yorkton show be added to the schedule?

“I haven’t submitted a show for the Godfrey Dean Gallery, only because I produce a limited amount of work each year due to my busy schedule at work and with the family. Right now, I am nearly sold out of all my work,” she said.

You can check out more of Busby’s art at