YORKTON - For an artist a multi-piece commission is likely winning a lottery, and that was the case for Billie Rae Busby.
“Over the last seven months, I completed a significant and unique art commission from TC Energy to create a total of 16 original paintings,” said Busby who resides in Calgary, but was born and raised in Yorkton.
The 16 artworks, ranging in size from large-scale works of 52”x 86” down to 12” x 16”, were created for a renovated floor at the TC Energy offices in Calgary, Alberta.
“These paintings will also be a permanent part of the TC Energy Corporate Art Collection, which will be a big highlight for my art resume,” said Busby.
Busby said the chance to do such a large collection is somewhat unique.
“The commission is especially significant and unique for a corporate collection due to its number of original paintings specifically created for the company by a living, local, emerging and I should also add in, a female artist,” she said.
“As well, I am the only artist exhibited on the entire 10th floor.
“Overall, it was a dream project to work on with their design team. I feel really lucky.”
Busby’s art roots are firmly in Yorkton though. She noted while attending Yorkton Regional High School she won the Art Award at graduation.
The interest in art however predates high school for Busby who has been in Calgary since 1999.
“I've been interested in drawing, arts and crafts since I was a very little girl,” she told Yorkton This Week.
“My mother was very crafty, she was always crocheting, sewing, cross-stitch and quilting.
“I can recall my parents putting my own art desk in the living room, which was full of pens, markers, paper and glitter for me to play with whenever I wanted.
“Art was just something that I did. I don't think there was ever a conscious choice to do that over other things, it just had always been something that I liked to do and how I enjoyed spending my time.”
After graduating YRHS Busby pursued her art further.
“My formal education was through the University of Saskatchewan in which I achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, along with a Bachelor in Kinesiology in Sport Management in 1998,” she said.
“However, I do credit my junior high teacher, the late Ms. (Sandra) MacColl, and my high school art teacher at the Regional, Ms. (Diane) Koch, for teaching me the fundamentals of art. Ms. Koch specifically really encouraged me and instilled a strong confidence in me to keep working on my art practice.”
And now art is not just a passion, but a career.
“Art is now a full-time career,” she explained. “I left my 20-year career in marketing, communications and sales during the pandemic in 2021 and in February, I will be coming up on my two-year anniversary of being a full-time artist. I am 47 years old.”
So what is Busby’s approach as an artist.
“When I was a teenager and in University, I focused mainly on drawing, specifically realistic work,” she said.
“After taking a break from art for many years, I came back to it in my late 20's and early 30's with a curious but rookie interest in painting, abstraction and colour theory.
“Over the last 15 years, I've been primarily focused on playing with a hard-edge painting technique, which in other words is using masking tape to create precise edges with acrylic paint. I began ages ago with realistic drawing and now have moved into abstract painting where the colour and shape set the scene and mood.
“I am attracted to abstract art as it has unlimited possibilities and helps me open my mind to new ways of looking at our surroundings. “
But, she still finds inspiration in the real world.
“My inspiration is our landscape,” offered Busby. “During one particular road trip as part of our regular travels back and forth from Calgary through Saskatchewan to visit my mom when she was ill in 2007, I had an epiphany where I saw our prairie landscape full of blue skies and lush fields as simple shapes and colour. It felt very comforting and full of possibilities.
“Ever since that moment, I have been trying really hard to paint our landscape in a new, fresh way. I am inspired by all of it -- the briskness of winter, northern lights, sunrises, sunsets, hot summer days and changing seasons.”
And perhaps because prairie skies seem endless Busby is drawn to larger works.
“I am currently preferring to work with medium and larger scale works, but I do also create small ones,” she said.
“The small ones tend to take almost as long as the large ones for me to create because I still need to wait in between layers to add additional paint. If I don't wait for the paint to dry, the masking tape technique will smear and wreck all I've been working on. So, when I paint on large canvases, I can work on other areas of the painting while wet sections dry.
“I enjoy the challenge of large canvases and the impact they make in their space.”
When looking at her portfolio to-date does the artist have a favourite piece?
“The TC Energy Art Collection as well as my designs being made into carpets for Canada House in London, England are two of my biggest career highlights; however, I don't have a favourite painting or commission because I try to make sure that I am proud of each artwork,” she said.
“It really makes me very happy when a client tells me how much they love having my artwork in their home. That is incredibly rewarding.
“It warms my heart when I get to connect with clients and learn why my art is important to them. I hope I can continue to create and evolve as an artist for many, many years ahead.”
The best place to see Busby’s work is on her website www.billieraebusby.com and on her social media: Instagram: @br_busby and Facebook: Art by Billie Rae Busby
She also sells her artwork through S16 Gallery in Montreal and two galleries just outside of Calgary - Bluerock Gallery and Leighton Art Centre.
“The TC Energy project had monopolized much of my time and artwork inventory last year, so I hope to have new paintings available this spring,” said Busby.