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Alex Witcombe’s Amazing Driftwood Sculptures

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Learn about the local artist behind the incredible driftwood sculptures around Campbell River – and how to find them.

Over the past few years, Campbell River has been dotted with extraordinary public sculptures made of driftwood. The first of these was Sheila the Velociraptor, which mysteriously appeared on Stories Beach in 2016.

They are the creations of local artist Alex Witcombe and his company Drifted Creations. He has a studio across Discovery Passage on Quadra Island.

That first sculpture is remarkable, but it is relatively primitive compared to the work that would come over the following near decade — both in terms of his public art and wall reliefs, which you can purchase directly.

Image cropped from Cougar by Alex Witcombe by David Stanley under CC BY 2.0.

Alex Witcombe

Although the focus of Witcombe’s work is now driftwood sculpture, it wasn’t a plan. His first sculpture (Sheila) was done to impress a dinosaur-loving woman he was dating. He said, “It got a lot of social media exposure and I was just like, ‘Woah!’ I should probably do some more.”

He has a BFA from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.

Witcombe has experience in a variety of media, including creating murals for local businesses. He continues to create murals, and you can see examples at The River Nook. He’s even written and illustrated children’s books.

Witcombe’s Process

The process of building these sculptures is pretty simply — in theory. Witcombe told Hakai Magazine that he starts with an idea and a reference photo before heading to the beach to look for materials.

“About 70 percent of my time goes into collecting wood — I use hundreds of pieces for the big sculptures, which I usually build in one go in a few hours.”

Shaw TV North Island interview with Witcombe (June 27, 2017)

Witcombe’s approach to his work advanced rapidly. In 2017, he told Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine that he had gotten picky about what he uses in his sculptures. “Now there’s only certain woods I like to use such as fir, cedar, and hardwoods.”

Kate Brown interviewed him around the same time (see video above). “When you get into doing the bigger stuff that needs a lot, you can search the whole beach and only like ten percent of it is usable,” he said. “I really like the curvey, chunky, grotesque looking pieces that have a lot of character.”

To get an idea of how he works, check out this time lapse video of Witcombe creating Elizabeth the Alien. It was located on Florencia Bay on the west side of the island near Tofino. It is no longer there but see below for current installations.

Elizabert the Alien driftwood sculpture (July 8, 2017)

The people of Campbell River have been phenomenal in their support of this art and I hear regular comments of how it brightens their day to see these sculptures on the beach.

Alex Witcombe

Seeing Alex Witcombe’s Work

Sheila is gone but you can visit and view Witcombe’s work all over the area. Here is a list of some of it along with map links to help you find each.

Juvenile Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Driftwood Sculpture by Alex Witcombe
Humpback Whale Driftwood Sculpture by Alex Witcombe

This 8-meter sculpture is roughly the actual size of a juvenile humpback and weights over two tons.

You can see it in Campbell River near the Ken Forde boat ramp in Willow Point. It was commissioned to encourage tourism — especially whale watching. 🧭Location: Ken Forde Park

It’s a giant puzzle that doesn’t really have a clear picture of how to put it together. You just have to read the wood…

Alex Witcombe

Bruce on Spruce

This black bear sculpture has been on public display since 2021. You can find it near the river at the end of Spruce Street in Campbell River. See an image of Bruce in the gallery below. 🧭Location: Spruce St & 19 Ave

Sarah the Herrerasaurus

Sarah the  Herrerasaurus
Sarah the Herrerasaurus photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

After Sheila the Velociraptor was destroyed by vandals in 2020, a GoFundMe campaign raised $2,449 from 95 people. Sarah was the result. You can view her on the Willow Point Seawalk. 🧭Location: Willow Point Seawalk

Peabody the Raccoon

While visiting Sarah, check out this older sculpture at the end of the Seawalk in Rotary Beach Park. Peabody the Raccoon can be seen in the gallery below.🧭Location: Willow Point Seawalk End

Salmon and Bear

Spawning Chinook Salmon
Spawning Chinook Salmon photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

The River Nook in Campbell River is home to male and female driftwood spawning Chinook salmon and Quinnie the Black Bear Cub. You can also see a salmon-themed mural (also by Witcombe). It can be found near the river at 1985 19th Avenue.

The Black Bear Cub is pictured in the gallery below.
🧭Location: The River Nook

Scirocco the Unicorn

Scirocco the Unicorn
Scirocco the Unicorn photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

This sculpture at the Robron Centre is unusual in that it was built collectively with students in various programs at the centre. 🧭 Location: Robron Centre

Mayhew the Sasquatch

Bigfoot fans can see this enormous sculpture at the end of Rebecca Spit Road in the Marine Provincial Park on Quadra Island. The gallery below features an image of Mayhew.

🧭 Location: Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park

Fergus the Fox

Fergus the Fox
Fergus the Fox photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

Fergus has mostly been on the trail near the Discover Campbell River Tourism Info Centre since 2017.

He was once stolen. But support from the local community got him anonymously returned. Witcombe said, “He was a little worse for wear — one of his ears had fallen off — but he’s been rehabilitated.”

🧭 Location: Campbell River Visitor Centre

Edward the VW Beetle

Although most of Witcombe’s work is natural in its subject, he has created some other remarkable work. One of the most impressive is this VW Beetle, which is on display at Black Creek Motors about 30 km south of Campbell River at 8256 N Island Hwy in (unsurprisingly) Black Creek.

It’s doors even open! CTV News has a good article on the piece. See the photo below for an interior image of Edward. 🧭 Location: 8256 N Island Hwy

Edward the Beetle
Edward the Beetle photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

Driftwood VW Bus

One of the highlights of a stay at Hotel Zed in Tofino is this interactive installation, which even includes a driftwood motor! Witcombe also created one of the Hotel Zed signs. 🧭 Location: Hotel Zed

Magnolia the VW Bus
Magnolia the VW Bus photo from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

There is much more of Witcombe’s work to see in the area and he is always creating more. Let us know about any of his installations that you come upon!

Summary

Alex Witcombe is very connected to the community. He told Hakai Magazine

I love giving back to the community and adding enjoyment to people’s lives. My most memorable experience was when Fergus the Fox was stolen from his home along a walking trail. The local radio station and newspaper covered his disappearance, and the tourism office put missing posters all over the city. It morphed into a large community affair, and it was really neat to see how many people were enjoying Fergus and were worried about him. Eventually, he was returned to the parking lot of the park.

Alex Witcombe

Alex Witcombe adds greatly to the life of Campbell River and beyond with his public art. That’s true if you just happen upon it or your make a day of searching out these pieces. We know you’ll be impressed!

All the following are current installations. The photos are from Drifted Creations. Used by permission.

Big thanks to Alex for letting us use the photos from his website, and for creating such wonderful public sculptures for everyone to enjoy.

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