PAINT RANCH - Airbrush artist John Ellenberger on his ‘paint ranch’ east of Red Deer. Ellenberger’s career as an artist has spanned four decades.

The Central Alberta man behind the airbrush

Artist John Ellenberger makes his mark on the Lacombe community

  • Aug. 18, 2016 7:00 a.m.


Lacombe Express

Artist John Ellenberger, also known as Little John, uses guns to create works of art; the kind of guns that don’t shoot, but spray.

Ellenberger is a an airbrush artist that has been perfecting his craft for almost four decades and his expertise is what led the City of Lacombe to employ his ‘guns’; to work on some of the City’s murals. He said when creating his artwork he attempts to share something real with the viewer.

“I try to make a story out of the painting,” he said.

Ellenberger is the talent behind some of the City’s murals, in particular, the children’s mural at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex’s outdoor water park. He is currently redoing the nighttime mural just off of 49B Ave.

He has been under contract with the City for approximately two months and has spent many hours on the mural. He was originally contracted to complete touchups on the lettering and buildings along with filling in any faces in the mural.

“They basically wanted me to bring it up to par,” he said.

A contractual amendment to redo the nighttime mural was then proposed. Ellenberger accepted.

He has completed extensive artwork on murals and and motorbikes across the country, from Ontario to Alberta. A sign painter by trade, his works have blanketed the halls of schools, sides of water towers, and interiors of science centres and grocery stores with bold, colourful landscapes and detailed scenes of history.

One such artwork was commissioned at an elementary school in Sudbury, Ontario.

Ellenberger filled the hallways with scenes of Canadian history that held particular significance. His employers saw educational importance in this work and wished to use it to teach history classes.

A self-expressed favourite of his is a portrait he created of a blacksmith in Pembroke, Ontario. The portrait brings to life a blacksmith shop with the smith hammering away while a girl peers in through a window. The piece is reminiscent of Lacombe’s own Blacksmith Shop Museum.

Ellenberger has brought motorbikes to life using the unique blend of glowing colour and smooth texture in his artwork. His motorcycle designs have included lifelike portrayals of eagles, wolves and lions. Even clowns busting out of gas tanks and fenders; if you can dream it, it seems he can do it.

Although this is how he makes his living, most of these works are specifically commissioned and they just, “Pay the bills”.

In his creative canvas artwork, his true passion lies his art, his rules. For his personal projects, Ellenberger prefers to create scenes that are, as he explains it, surreal. Visuals that can coax the viewer into a state of reflection.

One such piece is of a young Indigenous man peering into a reflective pool; staring back at him is the reflection of a chief in his traditional dress. The piece and its meaning are a poignant, yet subtle commentary on some of the issues surrounding Indigenous culture today.

“You look in the water and reflect on what happened, or what could have happened,” he said.

One of his pieces is the result of 15 photos being stitched together. The scene is a landscape of a lake from his roots in Petawawa, Ontario.

His passion for art began when he was a small child; nine by his count. He received one of well-known television art show host Jon Gnagy’s Learn to Draw kits for Christmas, from there he said it just took off.

Ellenberger attended Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario in the late 1970s and graduated from a commercial arts course at Assiniboine College. In his earliest days in college, he explained there were few choices for art students.

“There was a hallway with two doors, one on either side. One was the program I took and the other was animation. I chose the wrong one,” he said. “I could have been working for Disney.”

For many years, he bounced back and forth between Ontario and the prairie provinces, running paint shops and completing murals until, in 2008, he settled in Central Alberta.

Ellenberger came to Alberta because, as he puts it, “Ontario was dead.”

The year 2008 was near the height of Alberta’s oil boom and much of the money in Canada’s economy came through Calgary<span class="Apple-converted-space

Just Posted

Lacombe Police Service requests help finding missing person

Melissa Oswell was last seen on May 15th, after walking away from a health facility in Lacombe

Lacombe Composite High School students win gold at Skills Alberta Competition

Camryn Grant and Ben Rainforth will represent Team Alberta at Nationals in Halifax

Lacombe Police joins in on Canada Road Safety Week

1,841 motor vehicle fatalities and 9,960 serious injuries due to motor vehicle collisions in 2017

City of Lacombe council highlights – May 13, 2019

The next scheduled Regular Council Meeting is on May 27th

Social justice at the forefront at Father Lacombe Catholic School

Charity projects highlight Catholic Education Week

VIDEO: LCHS Hair Massacure supports children’s charities

Event supports kids living with cancer

‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

Those against Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aren’t worried about promise to fight critics of energy industry

Almost $13 million to be paid to Grande Prairie hospital subcontractors, others

No reasons for the Court of Queen’s Bench order were released

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Speed, alcohol considered factors in deadly Calgary crash: police

Two female passengers in the Corolla, aged 31 and 65, died at the scene

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

‘What’s your number?’: Advocates urge Canadians to check their blood pressure

May 17 is World Hypertension Day, marked to spread awareness on the risks of high blood pressure

National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day is May 18

Alberta RCMP participates in Canada Road Safety Week during Victoria Day long weekend

Alberta issues fire ban in northern part of province due to wildfire threat

The government says the decision was made due to the growing threat of wildfires

Most Read