Chris has been airbrushing for around 22 years now, perfecting his skills at University where he gained a degree in Illustration, focussing on photorealism and informational/technical illustration. He began his career working as an Illustrator in London later moving into the custom field, airbrushing motorcycles, cars and now goalie masks! Chris has painted masks for a number of goalies including Ben Bowns, Ervins Mustukovs, Brad Day, Jaskson Whistle and Michael Garnett, with his work being recognised worldwide having been featured in The Hockey News Magazine!
We got the chance to catch up with Chris and put a few questions his way...
'Firstly, huge congratulations, this is great news!'
‘Thank you, I am so over the moon about this, its fantastic news and am so proud to be able to say “Certified Bauer Mask Artist".... it's brilliant!!’
'How did you come to airbrushing hockey masks?'
I was approached to airbrush a single hockey mask after somebody saw my other airbrushing online, with the potential to do two. Of course this was the first mask I’d done so understandably the client wanted to know if I could do it before sending me another – it turned out just fine and dandy! Once the masks were complete and the pictures were shared over social media work started to pick up quite steadily and with the help of recommendations, hockey masks are now 99% of the work that I do and I love it!
'Do you follow hockey yourself? Favourite team?'
I follow hockey as a whole sport rather than an individual team. I’m more of a dip my toe in to see how teams are doing or how tournaments are playing out. I love the rush you get when you see a good goal or something outstanding on the ice…the pace, the adrenaline and the skill of the players…amazing.
'How much involvement do players have in the design process?'
Most of the time the players have a good idea of what they would like on their masks. Sometimes they don’t know, so I ask what they wouldn’t want on the mask and in a roundabout fashion this tells me a direction to go in, then we bounce some ideas off each other. Once a direction and elements have been decided I then produce a digital visual of the design showing it on a mask. When the digital visual is approved it is then the actual mask starts to be disassembled and prepped for airbrushing.
'Can you tell us about the airbrushing process?'
A lot of the airbrushing I do has a lot of hidden/extra detail in it…from ghosting subtle elements in the design, airbrushing individual hairs on portraits and iris irregularities in the eye, individual highlights on dragon scales, dimples on noses, creases on lips etc. I’ve been known to airbrush a highlight and shadow on something no bigger than 2mm in size….why do it so detailed? Why not?...the goalie sees it that close up and I try not to give them an airbrushed mask, but instead a piece of artwork, something that could be hung on a wall and admired.
In the approved design, if there are a lot of sharp edged graphics needed such as team logos, names, and numbers then these will be cut using a bespoke digital file (created earlier during the proofing process) out of masking film on a vinyl cutter to ensure 100% accuracy on logos etc. For airbrushed textures there are endless methods to create these from bristles on a brush to tumble dryer sheets, from simple water to torn paper all to produce different FX when combined in different ways. There are also endless FX created using specific paint mixing, Flip, Flakes, Chameleon, Heat Reactive, Candles, Metallic, Prism, Pearl, Flip Pearls, Photo Luminescent, Lumo….the list is literally endless…..it really is true you’re only limited by imagination. The paints of choice for me are house of Kolor, Createx Auto Air and Inspire.
Of course we have the world leaders in custom paints so we would need a world leader airbrushes to spray them, I’ve used many airbrush brands over the years and all there is literally no one brand that suits all (in my opinion) so I tend to lean more to the ‘this works for me’ method. I use Harder and Steenbeck, Iwata and SATA, each has its strengths for me and are very comfortable to use with good actions and weight balance – after all I’m often airbrushing for many hours in one go, a solid 6 hour stretch is quite normal for me so they have to be comfy in my massive hands, haha.
Once airbrushing is complete, a gloss or satin/matt is applied with gentle wet sanding between coats to achieve a flawless finish. Once dry/cured the mask is then hand polished to further deepen the wet look gloss finish.
After polishing, the masking materials from the internal areas is carefully removed. The mask is then reassembled with care not to damage the mask or its constituent parts.
Finally the mask is photographed, packaged up and shipped out then on to start another great mask!
'Do you have a favourite mask that you have worked on?'
I don’t really have a favourite. I love the challenge of the uniqueness of each mask, and to see the final finished piece makes me realise how awesome it is and is well worth the hours I put in to each project. I have airbrushed a fair few commemorative and tribute, it is always humbling to be asked to do them given the significance to them, especially if they are a tribute mask to a loved one.
I airbrushed a mask that looked exactly like stainless steel, bit unusual but looked awesome. I’ve airbrushed Yoda, Paint splats, horror, clowns, portraits, animals, logos, cartoons, natural textures like leather, wood, water droplets, rust, straight up graphics, special effects such as prism, marbling, ice ….the list goes on.
I do think that some of the choices of what folks want on their masks are a bit ‘out there’ but that’s fantastic, that’s what keeps the variety and the individuality. I love the challenge to produce something different to the norm, something unique, and strive to be the best I can. I keep saying that I’m only as good as my last project….which keeps me on my toes!
I’d like to say, during the growth of CT Airbrushing, I’ve gained fantastic working relationships/friendships with loads of lovely folk which I’ve collaborated with on many projects and for this I am very grateful…..thank you for your support!
And lastly… As I always say… No stickers… Just paint!