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South Brook artist produces Newfoundland memories on oil drums

For the last couple of months, Donna Rice-Budgell has been painting recycled oil drums for her hometown of South Brook and beyond. Photo courtesy Donna Rice-Budgell
For the last couple of months, Donna Rice-Budgell has been painting recycled oil drums for her hometown of South Brook and beyond. Photo courtesy Donna Rice-Budgell

Donna Rice-Budgell is a person who likes a challenge.

It is part of the reason the 53-year-old from South Brook started painting old oil drums a couple of months ago.

Oil drums have started popping up more and more in communities across the province.

They’ve been painted as margarine containers, Purity syrup bottles and other designs that look ripped from the pages of a Newfoundland and Labrador handbook.

Rice-Budgell saw photos of those previous versions and saw one of those challenges she likes.

“I saw the ones that people were painting around and I thought I could do a neater job. So I just attempted one,” she said.

Originally, she was just going to do a couple for friends. Her first was a replica of the familiar Carnation milk can.

In just three months, Rice-Budgell is already up to 46 completed, and has orders for a dozen more.

She’s painted them for people across the province and in other parts of the country.

“It is at a demand now where I have to slow down a little,” said Rice-Budgell.

Donna Rice-Budgell.  - Contributed
Donna Rice-Budgell. - Contributed


The oil drums follow on some other artistic work Rice-Budgell had previously completed in town.

In 2017, the Town of South Brook put out a call looking for volunteers to spruce up one of the local bus stops in town.

Rice-Budgell stepped up then to paint one. A year later, she took on painting the rest of them.

Each had a different theme and helped keep pieces of local history relevant. There are homages to past bus drivers, teachers and war veterans from the area.

Even her oil drums are nods to aspects of the province's culture.

She has done paintings of pineapple Crush cans, Purity hard bread and one for an area food bank designed to look like the aforementioned Carnation milk can.

Her own oil drum has both the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial flag, but also the colours of the flag for what some call the republic of Newfoundland.

“I just want to keep Newfoundland memories alive,” said Rice-Budgell.

Her workspace, for the most part, has been the family garden, but her home’s basement has been converted into a workspace in anticipation of the colder weather that is sure to come.

The drums she uses as a canvas come from a local supplier. When Rice-Budgell receives the drums, her husband, Ken, takes a grinder to them, cleaning them up and getting them ready for the next step.

As this is happening, Rice-Budgell takes nine sheets of card stock and tapes them together, and sketches the design she wants to use for

the project.

After Ken helps her cut a stencil, she draws it on the drum and then hand paints the rest. She uses Rust Coat paint to help preserve the work.

“I think it is a wonderful thing,” said Ken. “She’s bringing back some of the older stuff.”

Before she started painting the oil drums, and the bus stops before that, Rice-Budgell hadn’t painted for almost 30 years.

Then, she would turn old saw blades into pieces of art, but she started a family, and life, as it tends to do, took her elsewhere.

Things have slowed down and she’s been given the opportunity to get back into painting.

Her husband sees his wife doing something she enjoys, and it's for the betterment of the community.

“She’s doing something for everybody,” said Ken.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network

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