Home Uncategorized Artist Spotlight – Jarrett Cranston

Artist Spotlight – Jarrett Cranston

Photo submitted/photo soumise

“I needed something to fill that void. I needed something to do.”

When Jarrett Cranston was medically released from the military in 2020 due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he initially looked forward to focusing on improving his health by going to the gym, spending time with others in a supportive network and moving forward in taking care of his mental health. Then the pandemic happened.

“Everything that was giving me meaning in post-release was gone.”

Jarrett had joined the air force in 2005 during the post 9/11 recruitment blitz to fight the war on terror and served as a pilot. He flew domestic Search and Rescue Missions on the east coast and in the arctic and later became a Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) at NFTC (NATO Flight training in Canada) in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. As an instructor, Jarrett worked with both students in the early stages of flight training, as well as those selected for fast jet training.

“I loved the one-on-one nature of instructing, especially [the process of] explaining things to students in a way that they would understand because every student was so different in their learning styles.”

Jarrett loved the challenge of teaching and would find creative ways to help students learn. He mentioned that one student had difficulty with low-level navigation and would often drop the nose of the plane down whenever he looked down. Knowing the student was an avid Star Wars fan, Jarrett told the student to re-watch the trilogy over the weekend and to give him specific examples in the movies of what heights various aircraft were flying at over land. It worked.

He loved many aspects about his work in the RCAF, but the increasing stress of the job led to his medical release. Since the pandemic reduced his options towards recovery, he decided he needed a project to put his focus and mind into, so he decided to return to an unfinished chapter from his youth and started small-scale model building again.

“I didn’t have too many friends when I was young, so I enjoyed model building to entertain myself and find meaning. However, I would build them but wouldn’t paint them. [I had this] drive to be perfect and I didn’t want to get it wrong. Therefore, I didn’t want to try because I felt like I might fail, so I didn’t try.”

As he returned to the world of model building, he decided this time he would start trying to paint the models he would build. Also, in an effort to thwart any personal discouragement he decided to set up his son Nolan’s own model building station right next to his.

Photo submitted.

“I have to be very careful about the words I’m using because I’ve got my biggest critic and biggest supporter right here watching. I’m very conscious that he is watching all of the time and he is a sponge and picks up on everything that I do.”

Since he sits beside his son during projects, Jarrett realized he couldn’t set impossibly high standards or openly use a lot of swear words because he needed to be a good example.

“If something doesn’t go quite right [while painting], I incorporate that error into the final build. I like the models I paint to look like they come from a living world…I want the scars, environmental wear and the battle damage to help tell their story.”

Earlier this year in April, Jarrett connected with Barbara Brown from The Steel Spirit (a platform for military and first responder artists). Upon speaking with Barbara about potential involvement with The Steel Spirit, she asked Jarrett if he could add more of his own personal creativity to one of his projects so that his work would align more with other creative submissions. She asked him if he could make a diorama.

“Being the egotistical arrogant pilot that I am I said, oh sure, I can do that. Meanwhile in my head I’m thinking, oh my God, what have I just agreed to? I have no idea how to do any of that stuff.”

Fast forward to October 2022, Jarrett completed a full diorama of a WWII scene around a Panzerkampfwagen VII ‘King Tiger’ tank. The Tiger, serial number 555, saw combat with the 502 Heavy Panzer Battalion along the eastern front. The diorama is set around its final stand in Halbe near the Polish border. For inspiration, Jarrett referred to a scene in the series Band of Brothers to base his diorama on.

“It was very cathartic and good therapy for me. I loved it. It’s the first full-scale diorama I’ve ever done. I was really happy with the results.”

In October Jarrett joined other Steel Spirit artists and presented his work in one of their online gallery presentations.

“Jarrett’s creative talent is far beyond what he thought he could do,” said Barbara Brown. “I had no idea he had never tried a diorama before. Not only did the detail of his scene showcase his incredible talent, he also hit upon a much more inspirational chord… the strong positive bond he continues to build alongside his son.”

The Steel Spirit is a platform for artwork submissions by Military, First Responder and Hospital Practitioners. They are always looking for new and emerging artists with and without experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, please visit: www.thesteelspirit.ca 

Submitted by: The Steel Spirit