Aviation technician uses art to uplift

Cpl Nicole Reid

Cpl Nicole Reid

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

When Cpl Nicole Reid, 27, paints, each brush stroke she puts on the canvass helps her blow off steam.

The Aviation Technician with CFB Borden’s 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron conducts maintenance and repairs on CH146 Griffon helicopters and while fulfilling, it can be stressful.

Painting in her off-hours grew following a deployment to Mali in support of UN Mission MinusINUSMA in 2018.

“I found the tour in Africa highly demanding and difficult, so more and more I really began to enjoy painting as an outlet for stress relief.”

Life at the base finds its way onto her canvas – something she calls “slice of life” paintings.

The living room in her Residential Housing Unit is a makeshift art studio. Acrylic paint colours she selects are dependent on the mood she wants to convey.

“My overall intention is to capture the work we do and the people and faces behind it. My paintings aren’t just about a helicopter but the technicians who work day-in and day-out to make it safe to fly.”

Her painting The Face of 400 Sqn was created in 2018. It was done at the request of the then 1 Wing Kingston commander as a gift to 1 Wing. It still hangs in the Wing’s main entrance today and was her first commissioned work.

“It’s an image of a technician who is working at the back of a helicopter during heavy maintenance on a Griffon,” said Cpl Reid. “The commander had wanted a painting that truly captured what 400 Sqn does and it shows the chopper completely torn apart, so I felt it captured exactly what he wanted to see.”

She has been mechanically inclined since childhood helping her father take apart and rebuild engines. Years later, she attended college where she studied automotive service and repair. She joined the army reserves in 2009 shortly after visiting a recruiting booth that was set up at a local summer fair. After transferring to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2013, she trained at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering.

“Since I tend to be an all-or-nothing type of person, I decided right then and there that the military was the career for me and there was no turning back.”

There is great responsibility that comes with her current job. She is a technical authority for air worthiness of all the jobs she and her team complete. As a technical authority, she verifies and certifies the work of her colleagues.

“I enjoy being good at what I do and truly enjoy coming to work every day. Despite the physical and mental demands of this job, I am where I want to be and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Art has also been a life-long passion. She has no formal training and has learned and honed her craft over time. She is one of many artists to join The Steel Spirit. Founded by former Paramedic Barbara Brown in 2017, the gallery features the artwork of military members, veterans, first responders, and hospital practitioners.

“I didn’t become a member just to have my art seen by other people, although that is truly a thrill,” she said. “I love being involved with Steel Spirit because it enables me to meet other military members and veterans from all over with different backgrounds.”


The annual Steel Spirit Gallery, founded by Barbara Brown in 2017, showcases the unique artwork of military, police, firefighters, paramedics, hospital practitioners, and other first responders. Brown’s inspiration initially came from her own ties to the military and its unique lifestyle; however, she quickly noticed an interconnectedness between the emotional experiences of military members and first responders. “Diverse backgrounds lead to diverse artwork,” said Brown. “It is one of the things that makes this project so special.” For more information, visit www.thesteelspirit.ca. Steel Spirit Galley is accepting artwork submissions by military and first responder services.


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