Soldier airs his artistry

MCpl Ryan Mountenay

MCpl Ryan Mountenay

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

MCpl Ryan Mountenay, 38, has found a way to combine his creativity with his military trade skillset.

He’s a Materials Technician with Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) Regiment in Edmonton and a former Marine Engineering Mechanic on former HMC Ships Algonquin and Huron. Among his jack-of-all skills is airbrushing.

During the final days of an automotive repair class at CFB Borden, his instructor challenged the students to air brush anything they wanted on to blank panels of sheet metal.

MCpl Mountenay chose the logo of a popular motorcycle apparel company. With only a postcard-sized printout of the logo, he successfully converted it into a large airbrushed likeness.

“I thought it wasn’t that good but the instructor, who was an experienced graphics painter, was completely impressed with what he saw,” said MCpl Mountenay. “That gave me a complete boost of confidence.

He took that skill up a notch when he painted his first portrait, his grandfather in his early years as a paratrooper. It took a few attempts to get it right, but the final outcome was a remarkable black and white painting. The soft hues from the airbrushing gave the image an ethereal quality.

When he presented his grandfather with the portrait in 2012, he received a subdued response. But that was okay, says MCpl Mountenay, as the painting wasn’t meant to elicit a generous response.

“My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just after I returned from my tour to Afghanistan in 2011; I created it so he would remember who I was and know that I painted it.”

The two were very close before the progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away faded his memory.

MCpl Ryan Mountenay’s art including a portrait of his grandfather as a young paratrooper depicited above.

MCpl Ryan Mountenay’s art including a portrait of his grandfather as a young paratrooper depicited above.

MCpl Mountenay lived with his mother and grandparent’s on their farm in Millbrook, ON, until he was almost three years old.

“Growing up, I spent most weekends with my grandfather helping him with various jobs around the farm. I always remember us gathering wood from the property and chopping it together so he could heat the house with their old wood-burning furnace.”

His grandfather died in 2018. Following his death, his grandmother told MCpl Mountenay how much he  had cherished the painting.

“I was so happy to hear it and knew from then on I had a chance at becoming somewhat of an artist. I had taken art in high school, but quickly became disinterested because it was all based on theory and art history and had little to do with painting or creating itself.”

Nowadays, the married father of two can be found honing his skills at painting and air brushing in his studio. Art is a way to unwind and de-stress, he says.

“For the past 20 years I have been at the beck-and-call of the military, so I’m pushing myself in a new direction these days.”

When he heard about the Steel Spirit project this year, he reached out to founder Barbara Brown to see if there was interest in showcasing his work.

Steel Spirit hosts galleries of artwork created entirely by military, first responders, and hospital practitioners. Brown, a military wife and former paramedic, created the forum to recognize and give back to those that serve their community and country. 

“I admire his transition from deciding he wasn’t good at art to later becoming inspired to try. He is very determined to be successful,” says Brown. “His artwork is fantastic and this is all because he decided to re-focus on it during a later chapter in his life.”

The Steel Spirit is always accepting new artists; contact if interested. Visit to see more of MCpl Mountenay’s art.


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