Faded Yellow Ribbon

Inspired by the true story of Lance Corporal Melvin Sheya, Faded Yellow Ribbon is an epic WWII war story about four young Marines captured by the Japanese Army after the horrendous, brutal battle of Corregidor. At its essence, Faded Yellow Ribbon is a testimony to the indomitable will, unbreakable friendships forged in the fire of combat, the ultimate sacrifice, loss, and redemption.

“A must must must read!”

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Wild Flowers #3

I painted this in a flurry of creative energy in early 2023. My singular purpose was to capture the light amplified and reflected by the structure of the flowers. Each stroke unique and unplanned. Imagination only.

36″ high x 48″ wide
Oil on canvas; Impasto

Bumblebee TV

Beneath the expressive strokes is a variation of Archimedes‘ Square — the world’s oldest documented brain teaser puzzle. I created a Stomachion as a scaffolding and then added the abstraction. A metaphor with many meanings. As always, most of my recent work is intended to be hanged from any direction, giving the eye new perspective and eight new paintings.

24″ high x 24″ wide
Oil and acrylic on canvas

View from a Helicopter

Flying across the country in a Blackhawk helicopter provides a unique perspective of the ground below. America is often divided into shapes by roads, bridges, crops and small towns etc. This painting came from my subconscious and when I finished I realized what it was — a bird’s eye view of the world.

Flower Power

What can I say? I dig painting funky flowers the way nobody else does.I love this painting. There are so many details that appear as surprises. Even after painting this and having it on my wall for a few years, I still find new elements that jump out at me.

60″ high x 72″ wide
Oil on canvas

Undercover Color

Undercover Color began as a study in green and yellow, then evolved into a cool painting that I hated at the time, then morphed into a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth completely different painting. When I crested the 10th version of whatever this painting wanted to be, I quit counting. Finally, I surrendered and was going to rip it from the frame and shove it into the trash can with a vengeful and sadistic satisfaction. But instead, I snatched my daughter’s wire hair brush (don’t tell her) from the windowsill and began scraping in a fury of frustrated rage. As the paint fell away, I had forgotten how many times I had repainted this damn canvas and to my happy surprise, all these beautiful, deeply nuanced colors — hues, tints, tones, and shades — revealed themselves saving the painting from certain death. Art. Huh. Who knew?

60″ high x 60″ wide
Oil on canvas

Sunset Through the Blinds

I painted this in Colorado during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. I noticed the sun shining through the window, glinting off the matte-white slats. The moment was transcendent. The darkness and death that has defined the lockdown vanished. Replaced by the ancient and infinite promise that light will always conquer death. As you look into this painting, the lines will dissolve into the sunset and you will be transported into it, and, if you are willing, be reassured by it. The metaphors are bountiful, as are the many surprises in the painting, but I will let you discover them for yourselves.

The Book

Inspired by the true story of Lance Corporal Melvin Sheya, Faded Yellow Ribbon is an epic WWII war story about four young Marines captured by the Japanese Army after the horrendous, brutal battle of Corregidor.

At its essence, Faded Yellow Ribbon is a testimony to the indomitable will, unbreakable friendships forged in the fire of combat, the ultimate sacrifice, loss, and redemption.

Amazing and moving.

An incredibly impactful book that uses the horrors of war to advocate for peace. The character depth and development are unparalleled and heartbreaking. You’ll fall in love with these men while wanting to howl at their treatment. It’s a book of despair, love, hope, humor and survival. A must must must read!

Powerful! Authentic! Thought provoking!

This moving story takes us to World War II. To the true nature of war – devastating, disturbing, and horrible. Back then, and today. Yet there is hope and humanity in the characters described so vividly by the author.

About Ryan

Ryan Kelly is a former reporter and is a decorated Iraq War veteran. He commanded 100 soldiers and piloted Blackhawk helicopters in the war. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. He also worked at Ground Zero during recovery operations after the September 11 attacks.

An award-winning writer, his work has been published by The New Yorker, Samuel French, Random House, The Denver Post, The Associated Press, The New York Times, The National Endowment for the Arts, The PEN Center, and Pearson among others.

He was featured in Lawrence Bridges’ documentary Muse of Fire: Operation Homecoming with Ray Bradbury and Kevin Costner. Ryan’s work was inducted into the National Archives, The Library of Congress, and read into the Congressional Record. He has written TV pilots, screenplays and is a military consultant for TV and film. His stage plays have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and London. Ryan holds an MFA from Columbia University.

Ryan Kelly


The Iraq War in The New Yorker

Some of The New Yorker’s best writing about the war has been by soldiers themselves. In June of 2006, in a feature called “Soldiers’ Stories,” the magazine published a selection of letters, e-mails, journal entries, and personal essays by soldiers in Iraq. One letter, from Captain Ryan Kelly to his mother, begins this way:

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NEA’s ‘Homecoming’ gives soldiers a voice

Army Capt. Ryan Kelly is among U.S. military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq appearing in Lawrence Bridges’ documentary titled “Muse of Fire,” about the National Endowment of the Arts project “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.”

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Former pilot raises many questions in play about torture in Iraq

There’s hardly an issue in the Iraq War that doesn’t come up in “Rendition,” a play written by Ryan Kelly, a former Black Hawk pilot in Iraq. And there are just as many voices. Torture is Kelly’s overriding theme, and it is taken to an extreme with an ending not unlike Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”

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