Art Tag: Ryan Smeeton is larger than life

By Andrea Stokes – 

In the last edition of Art Tag, local artist Jeff McIntyre chose Kitchissippi resident and painter Ryan Smeeton as one of his favourite artists from our area.

Ryan Smeeton in his studio. Photo by Andrea Stokes
Ryan Smeeton in his studio. Photo by Andrea Stokes

I met up with Ryan in the large Platform Gallery and Studios space on Young Street, which houses several small but bright studios. Jeff and Ryan have open spaces that back on to each other. This has allowed them to watch each other’s process and progress and to share and talk art with each other.

Ryan is a young painter who came to Ottawa from Ajax to do his BFA at the University of Ottawa. He finished in 2011, but has remained here because he “loves his studio community,” the city as a whole, and what he feels is a burgeoning Ottawa art scene.

During my visit to his studio, it was immediately clear that Ryan is a very skilled and prolific painter who is exploring the traditions of both formalist portraiture and abstraction. The walls are filled with portrait studies, still lifes, and finished paintings, which explore the tension between revealing and concealing the subject. It’s abundantly clear there’s a simple passion for painting, and the struggle for Ryan is truly knowing when to stop, or when to push a painting.

Although his love of painting on traditional supports (smaller scale canvas or wood) is evident, Ryan says he needed to push beyond the purely conventional. He became more and more enamoured by large-scale mural painting. After graduation, Ryan took a job as a display artist and carpenter for the retail giant, Urban Outfitters. As it so often does for many artists, this made him crave and miss his studio time.

An opportunity to do a mural painting residency in Spain presented itself, and he leapt at the chance.

Because of the ongoing recession in Spain, there were many old and abandoned buildings available to freely try painting very large-scale murals. Much of the mural painting was devoid of the red tape, bureaucracy, and permissions required in many Canadian cities.

“To draw on a large scale is so fun, and so satisfying,” says Ryan. “I often use a pole with a drawing tool attached to it, which ensures my drawing movements and marks are more gestural, and I can’t get preoccupied with the small details, the way I might fuss over a small canvas.”

Ryan is working on a large-scale commission on the side of the Museum of Science and Technology. He says he would “love” to be a full-time muralist.

Ryan Smeeton working on his mural at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Photo submitted by Ryan Smeeton
Ryan Smeeton working on his mural at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Photo submitted by Ryan Smeeton

“I see increasing opportunities in Ottawa, we are getting there I think,” says Ryan. “But we are still catching up to cities like Montreal.”

Ryan has tagged artist Tomas Pajdlhauser as one of his favourite local artists. Ryan tells me that Tomas works full-time as an animator but paints beautiful plein air watercolour landscapes that sometimes form his backgrounds. I can’t wait to meet him and discover his work.

In the meantime, you can see more of Ryan’s work by visiting his website at

Art Tag is a special series by local artist Andrea Stokes. Each artist she profiles for KT “tags” their favourite artist to be profiled in the next issue. Find the others in this series right here



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