David Arrigo Interview – Part I
Recently I had a great morning chatting over coffee with artist David Arrigo. I approached David as a result of an article published on NHL.com about his mask painting. It was amazing to learn of his background and his diverse talents. You would most recognize him for his Carey Price mask, but he has worked on a range of hockey and other sport related art.
Unfortunately, Starbucks didn’t prove the best place to record a podcast (surprise!) so I have transcribed the interview here. Today we present the first half of the questions and will follow next week with the remainder.
Also, stay tuned as David has offered to keep me in the loop as he works on a new mask for an NHL goalie – we’ll have exclusive shots of his work, and questions answered by the goalie coming soon.
We begin with a few comments from David before I started with some questions as he told me about his background and how he got into sport and hockey artwork.
“It’s the old story – I failed grade 9 art. I was doing lots of murals in bars and restaurants. I was approached to do a large mural outside of Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant.
Then when Wayne was inducted the Hall of Fame they asked me to come into the Hall the night before to do an induction mural for him. Nobody thought I could pull it off in 24 hours but I did fortunately and it raised interest from the NHL and that year – 2000 – is when I did my first All-Star game with them.”
“I think that’s the attraction to me. The speed, but the accuracy and the detail as well.”
“To me the airbrush is a dying trade. The natural artist is a dying trade and I’ve found a niche and I want to continue it. Everyone is surrounded by generated art but you can tell the difference when you really get up close”
“I’m very fortunate in the sense that I cover all the professional sports and at the same time I’ve been able to do everything from driver helmets to goalie masks to canvases to limited edition prints.”
Q1 What do you think it is that makes goalie masks interesting to everyone? You don’t have to be a goalie to appreciate them, do you?
Well, it’s the personalities. As I mentioned, I do driver helmets for NASCAR as well as NHL goalie masks and driver helmets are more graphics than anything, just striping, there’s no personality. Sure if you see a team’s colours you know it’s your favorite driver – but goalie masks – if they go to another team and they carry over that image, your going to know, to recognize that goalie. I’ve said this before. The goalie mask, the concept of it, is truly the billboard to the goalie’s soul.
It’s so much fun. I’m looking forward to four or five years from now when goalies I’m working with right now – some of the Edmonton Oil Kings – you grow with them and their concept and hopefully they break into the NHL.
I tend to become very personal with a lot of my clients, like Mike Smith, Ells (Brian Elliot, Ottawa)…and someone asks me, so who’s your favorite team? It’s hard for me…and I can’t even say favorite goalies anymore. Just last week when I’ve been talking to Barbs (Jason LaBarbera, Vancouver) and he’s just had a baby and you feel good for him – you kinda become almost like personal friends and I feel fortunate to get to know them and make a living from it.”
Q2. Were you a hockey fan before?
Oh absolutely. On skates when I was 2 and a half. Played goalie myself up until a few years back and then when I realized I wasn’t growing past 5’10” and I was really crappy, I decided to get into the Hall of Fame another way!
Q3. Do you get your inspiration from anywhere besides the client?
Yes, music. Depending on what I’m listening to – it’s very eclectic my music collection – I’ll just crank on the tunes and start the concepts and….everything around me or even the game the night before when I’m watching them, their style of play, taking their own personalities and taking, for example, again going back to LaBarbera where he’s a huge Metallica fan – I’m not the biggest Metallica fan – but you know it proves to be an inspiration where I can see where Jason gets his edginess…
Q3B. Do you need to meet these guys in person to really get a feel for them?
No, actually Barbs and I have never met in person. I was supposed to go down to the game (in Toronto) a few weeks back when Vancouver was in town but that day I was flying out to Vegas so we never got the chance to meet. But it’s funny but for some reason with Mike Smith and now with LaBarbera the players’ girlfriends end up wanting to do something for them and I guess they see my name on the mask and they’ll contact me. Like Barbs’ girlfriend, she contacted me out of the blue and she wanted to do something special for Barbs because he’s going to be meeting Metallica and at the time I was working on a Metallica helmet for him and she wanted to see if I could get it to him right away so she was going to surprise him with it, while introducing him to Metallica. I ended up sending them photos of the mask and when Metallica saw them they were just blown away.
Q4. A lot of artists keep notebooks with them for moments of inspiration – do you?
No, it’s all in my head. Once in a while I can be seen with bar napkins sketching out a mask but for me it’s more of a visionary thing – once I have it down it’s ingrained in my head so that if I end up losing that napkin, and I usually do, then it’s all good! Once I get that initial inspiration, within 10 hrs I’m on the computer, sketching it out and then we’re ready to roll on it.
Q5. Any guys other than Barbs and Carey Price that you’re going to be working with going forward?
Right now I’ve started a push on the AHL guys , the thing is and I respect this quite a bit – a lot of these NHL guys already have their artists and they’re comfortable with them – I’ve never gone after a goalie. Goalies come to me when they see my work. The key for me is my turnaround time. I’m able to turn around a mask within 18 – 20 days, clearcoat and everything. That’s from concept to receiving the actual helmet.
Q6. One question from a reader, Kelly in Manitoba, when you do these for the pros, are you doing it for the publicity or are you getting paid and if so, by who? The team, the goalie?
No, I’m paid. What happens is the team will have a certain budget from the different helmet companies be it Mission/iTech, RBK, Bauer and I’m paid directly by the companies to paint these helmets.
Q6B So that’s part of their deal in sponsoring one of these goalies?
Exactly. Helmets vary and can cost from as little as $600 to as much as $1400 depending on how much detail is on it. But publicity wise? Sure it’s great to carry a helmet that I did for Mike Smith, Jason LaBarbera or all those guys in the portfolio – it’s a sense of pride as well so that when I turn on the TV – and I’ve got the NHL package now because there’s so many games going on so I’m able to see the West Coast guys that are wearing my mask and it’s very cool.”
To be continued….
Stay tuned for more from David next week. In the meantime, check out his web site for lots more.
If you liked this, you will enjoy Masks are a Billboard to a Goalie’s Soul