Kevin "Bushy" White: the making of a mineral work of art: Part 2

Bushy & Betty White Photo: Kate Kennessy ©

Yesterday you saw some of the incredible artworks being created by Broken Hill artist Kevin Bushy White. Today we are going to follow Kevin as he makes one of his images from the minerals found in the very ground he has walked on and worked in for over 70 years.

But first the story of how he came to be called Bushy. When growing up in Broken Hill, the small boy Kevin lived close to the Water Works Hill tank which supplied BH with its water. He would run up the hill chasing kangaroos and rabbits through the bush. When his mates asked each other "Where's Kevin?" the reply would always be "Up the bush!" And so the nickname Bushy was bestowed upon Kevin and remains his preferred name to this day.

But the adult Bushy chose to work deep under the hill, not on top of it, and soon discovered that the blackness was alive with the sparkle of the minerals - hundreds of minerals with a myriad of colours.

He began talking to his wife Betty about the ideas forming in his mind: how the beauty of the underground could be used as the medium to create images of the history of mining in Broken Hill.

Hand trucking, candlelight, South Mine 1918 ~ Kevin White ©

Encouraged very much by Betty, Bushy set out to find a source of images to form the base of his pictures. He wanted to record the history of mining in Broken HIll and realised that the Zinc Corporation's newsletters The Conveyor and Ore Bits contained photographs right back to the early days of mining in the area.

Bushy was ready to begin his venture into creating historical pictures which now number well over 1000 and hang in his museum in Broken Hill.

And so: How does a black and white photograph become a picture alive with the minerals from the Broken Hill earth?

Let us start with Bushy's resource - his supply of nearly 50 different minerals - given that some belong to the same type but vary in colour. The most special of the minerals used by Bushy are: Galena, also called lead glance, which is the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide (PbS). It is the most important ore of lead and an important source of silver and Sphalerite ((Zn, Fe)S), which is a mineral and an important ore of zinc.1 He also uses the deep blue mineral Azurite mixed with Feldspar, which is white, to make the sky in his pictures and, in the example we see in the making today - a swimming pool!

The minerals are crushed in preparation to being laid in the pictures. All the minerals are split into smaller pieces with a hammer, following which the galena, sphalerite, malachite and azurite are crushed by hand in a dolly pot.

A mechanical crusher is used for the other more robust minerals as shown in the image below left. All the crushed minerals are sieved endless times (for up to 20 days) until very fine and then stored - in those wonderful ice-cream containers!! into colour groups. One mineral could have three colours - red, light red and dark red. Crystals are never used by Bushy as they are transparent, making it easy for marks to show through, destroying the impact of the image.

The first step for the chosen image is to enlarge the photograph to A3 or A2 size on a photocopy machine. The image is then glued onto a board. Showing the process (below) is an image of a swimming pool and not one of the mining images. Bushy told me that he works on about 12 images at a time and it takes 2 to 3 months to complete the set to a finished product.

Outlining the image details in cord is meticulous and time consuming and Bushy works on about 12 pictures at a time. He has sent me several images from his History of Mining series showing the image with the cord glued into place. I find these corded images interesting art works in their own right.

Bushy uses black regal 4 ply cotton as the cord in the pictures, though he has used macrame cord in the past. The process starts with the cord being pre-glued and then laid around the shapes in the image with the fibres on the cord being removed with a stanley knife.

We return to the swimming pool to follow the next stage where the finely crushed minerals are added to the image.

First the area to be coloured is covered in glue and then the chosen mineral is poured carefully on being held in place by the boundary formed by the cord. The board is tapped and moved continuously to gain an even covering of the ground up mineral. While waiting for the glue to dry and the mineral covering to set, Bushy moves onto another of the pictures and repeats the process.

All the pictures are framed by Bushy himself. None of those depicting the history of mining in Broken Hill have been sold: partly because Bushy loves them so much, partly because he feels they are not good enough to sell(!!) but mainly because he wants to leave his mineral pictures as a legacy depicting the history of the mining industry in Broken Hill. All the pictures hang in the museum where the public can learn from the images and Bushy himself.

The museum also houses his wife, Betty's, collection of dolls, which is her artistic passion.

Please click on the short video below to hear both Bushy and Betty talking about their artistic passions.

© Thank you to Kevin "Bushy" White who kindly gave permission for the images of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life. The information given here has been compiled from several phone discussions I have had over the past few weeks with Bushy and I thank him for his patience and time in explaining so much especially about the minerals that have made Broken Hill and its history.

❁ A very special thank you to Jody Lindsay, daughter of Kevin and Betty White, who has given generous support in preparing the images and notes for publication.

❁❁ Betty White has been very much part of all of Bushy ventures and is also an artist, one who creates dolls - I believe the correct term is a reborner. I know many of you would love to see some of her creations. Hopefully in the future we will be able to bring you another post from Broken Hill showcasing Dolls by Betty White.

❁❁❁Kate Hennessy ~ Instagram: the_smallest_room ~ has kindly given permission to include the photo she took of Bushy and Betty White.

If you are visiting Broken Hill please call into White's Mineral Art and Mining Museum and say hello to Bushy and Betty White and see the remarkable mineral pictures and an incredible display of dolls.

White’s Mineral Art and Mining Museum
White’s is the perfect place to discover the mining history of Broken Hill and the region. Your host Kevin ‘Bushy’ White, is a veteran of the local mining industry having worked for many years underground. He’s turned his passion into the backyard museum as well as a place to...