Creatures from the sea provide inspiration

Scuba diver uses sculpture to recreate what he sees under water

BRENDA GOUGH PHOTO Mixed media sculptor Jay Holbrook gets his inspiration for his copper rockfish metal sculptures from the waters he dives in around his neighbourhood of Nanoose Bay. Many of his pieces can be found at the Oceanside Village Artists’ Gallery on Resort Drive in Parksville.

He is a scuba dive master and instructor, so it is no surprise the ocean and its colourful creatures are the inspiration for the handiwork of Nanoose Bay artist Jay Holbrook.

When Holbrook isn’t under water photographing and recording what he sees, he is in his studio recreating the marine life he finds so fascinating.

A mixed media sculptor of copper, steel, and wood, Holbrook says he attempts to convey through shape, texture and colour the feeling and unique perspective that a diver has when interacting close-up and personal with sea creatures.

Many of Holbrook’s metal sculptures are based on the aquatic organisms he sees in the waters off of the east coast of the Island and his favourite are rockfish.

He says there are three species of the spiky, spiny, striped and speckled creatures that often encounters around these parts.

“There are more Quillback, Copper and Tiger rockfish in this area.  I really like the Tiger rockfish.  It has nice colours … bold orange and a red stripe,” he pointed out.

His metal creations come in an array of shapes, sizes and colours and are often grouped together creating a vivid piece of wall art.

The life-like fish are made from 24 oz copper plating which is hand cut using a plasma torch to give a natural organic design.  He then uses various hammers for texture for the scales and fins. Once the pieces are shaped and hammered they are then TIG welded together. The final process is adding the finish with a hand held touch.

He said painting with flames brings out the gorgeous colours that copper can show.

“I’ve found that metal is an excellent medium to convey the intense colour and brilliant reflective surfaces of these denizens of the deep.”

Holbrook who is also trained a wood worker and cabinet maker makes custom furniture, woodwork and home decor items.

His primary medium is wood when he makes furniture but you’ll also find elements of metal, rock and painted surfaces on the pieces as well.

He said his artistic side surfaced when he was a kid doing woodwork and his welding work as a scuba diver eventually influenced his creations.

“I have always made stuff but I wanted to add a little something extra to the wood and the furniture pieces I was making so I started playing around with copper and adding bits of copper.  It kind of just snowballed from there.  I do a lot of copper fish so it is always tied in with the diving.”

Holbrook just happens to live within a few minutes of several excellent dive sites.  He said he dives at least once a week if not more and brings along an underwater camera to capture his interactions with the creatures he gets up close and personal with.

He also participates in a Vancouver Aquarium program that has volunteer scuba divers record information about the species at risk in our oceans.

You can find Holbrook’s creations at the Oceanside Village Artists’ Gallery on Resort Drive in Parksville or visit



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