Menno artist paints mobile scenes of patriotism

Eye on KELOLAND

He’s considered to be one of the best airbrush artists in the country and he lives right here in KELOLAND.

Mickey Harris of Menno has painted some of the most patriotic scenes honoring veterans from all wars.

But he doesn’t always use a typical canvas board for his masterpieces.

In his tiny garage in a back alley in the small town of Menno, South Dakota, Mickey Harris arms himself with an airbrush and paint.

He’s been painting professionally for 43 years.

“I started when I was 19 in Florida on the beaches there painting T-shirts, believe it or not, but that’s a summer job so when summer runs out there’s your income, so I had to start thinking kind of quick on my feet and I decided well vans were pretty popular back then that was 1977 so they were still pretty hot. So I went down to the Dodge dealership and talked the guy into letting me paint a van I got for $500,” Harris said.

And that was when Harris knew he could do more, a lot more.

Harris began painting cars, trucks, even motorcycles and most of them have a military theme.

“I grew up as a military brat my father was a fighter pilot, so I’ve always had a strong connection,” Harris said.

Harris has painted several pictures for the Pentagon; as part of the Pentagon Arts Program; like the one of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Harris says all of his detailed paintings tell a story.

“Some of the ones that I’ve done for the Pentagon, or specific particular missions, and that sort of thing. So, when you do paintings for the Pentagon you got to be very accurate, so you do a lot of research, everything’s got to be like it was, because I can guarantee you, one of them guys knows it. He’s gonna call you out on it if not,” Harris said.

Some of Harris’ paintings include this custom Harley Davidson motorcycle that was a special tribute to the USS South Dakota submarine.

He also painted an old Thunderbird as a tribute to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor and even had some of them sign it.

The car was auctioned off to raise money for several military organizations.

“It’s just wonderful to tell a story and when you show it somewhere on the show and people are looking at it and you see some big burly biker who has maybe an ex-Vietnam guy walking around he looks at a particular scene that strikes him and it brings back these memories and you can see it in his face, and you know maybe he’ll tear up a little or something and when you start seeing the artwork is actually touching people’s souls a little bit. That’s pretty good reward right there,” Harris said.

Although he’s only lived here for 8 years, Harris has left his mark on the small town in a big way. From murals to signs to even this fire truck, Harris has

“This truck was actually at Ground Zero when the towers went down,” Menno volunteer fire chief Jai Walter said.

When Harris discovered Menno got the fire truck from a New York City fire department, he immediately knew he wanted to paint it.

“He painted the mural on the side and the hood and on the top, he did the dedication to them,” Walter said.

Today in these times of uncertainty, you can’t always predict the future, but for Harris, he says you can always paint a better picture for tomorrow because it’s right at your fingertips.

“The airbrush has been the tool. It’s what allowed me to do what I love to do, you know today 43 years later, I get up every morning and I feel it, I go, I get to paint today, is it’s a, it’s a wonderful, wonderful life that I’ve been given a gift and I’m very thankful,” Harris said.

To learn more about Harris’ paintings and how to buy some of his prints online, click here.

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