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Terrier 50th: Art and sport blend in goalie masks

Week #11 comes from Nov. 8, 2006. 

YORKTON - The Yorkton Junior Terriers are celebrating 50 years in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season.

To mark the milestone Yorkton This Week is digging into its archives and pulling out a random Terrier-related article from the past five decades of reporting on the team, and will be running one each week, just as it originally appeared.

This feature will appear weekly over the entire season in the pages of The Marketplace.

Week #11 comes from Nov. 8, 2006. 

Hockey players are not your typical visitor to art galleries, and artists are often not big followers of sports.

An art show at the Community pARTners Gallery in the Yorkton Public Library attempts to bridge the gap between the work of art and sport. The show entitled ‘Saving Face: The Maskerade’ incorporates goaltender mask art and connects with the World Junior ‘A’ Hockey Challenge being held in the city. The art show will run Nov. 1 to 15.

“To me to see a goalie mask in a gallery, that’s the best thing. I’m not into painting on canvas or other flat surfaces,” said Saskatoon artist John Chubak. “I do Harley tanks and goalie masks.”

It is really a unique opportunity,” said Art Lima, who supplied five masks for the show. The Regina artist said he has aspirations to one day do more traditional fine arts on canvas, but this exhibit “shows these are a medium for art too.” He added he doesn’t see a large gap between different types of art.”

“I’m not really hung up on that whole thing,” he said. “I have no formal training in art, so I don’t feel I’m a starving artist stuck in a rut doing something just to make money.”

In fact, Lima said he sees painting masks as something which requires skills beyond that of regular art.

“You have to have other skills. You have to prep it like you would prep a car for painting. You have to be able to fill and sand and prime it. You have to have those skills in order to create the art work too.”

Chubak is also happy to have his masks on display in a gallery setting. “It’s common to have my art in bike shows. It’s neat to see my art on these beautiful choppers.

“People don’t think od goalie masks the same way, but the same amount of creativity goes into them.”

Chubak said he too sees the interest in masks as art objects beginning to grow. “I’ve had a lot of customers say, ‘Oh man, I’m not wearing this one.’”

In such situations, Chubak encourages them to put the mask on and go play hockey, adding he tells them he can always touch up any nicks after the playing days of the mask are over.

“A lot of customers will bring old masks back to get it to look like new again so they can keep it behind glass, or keep it on the wall as a keepsake.”

Lima also appreciates his masks are art that jocks might appreciate more than most.

“The first thing a goalie is going to do when he takes a new mask in the dressing room is show half the guys,” he said.

“No way it’s fine art, but it is a good way for people to express themselves.”

While definitely objects of art, painting masks is also a business, one which Lima said is ‘slowly but surely getting busier’.

“I’m just finishing one up for the Flin Flon Bombers (of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League),” he said.

The Bombers are also a team which have turned to a painted mask for more than protecting their netminder. Last year the SJHL team commissioned a work from Lima which was auctioned off as an art piece as a fundraiser. “It was their director of marketing that called me,” said the artist, adding he hasn’t seen a lot of that sort of interest in masks yet, but he sees it as an area with potential to grow.

Chubak too has seen interest in the business of painting masks. “Oh man, I’m doing lots. Sometimes it can be as many as five a week this time of year. It can be pretty hectic. It’s a lot of late nights, and a lot of early mornings. I’m impatient, so I think my customers are too, so I don’t procrastinate.”

For Lima the idea of creating goalie mask art was a true natural, given his artistic interest, and his involvement in the game. “I’m a goalie for starters. I’ve painted masks really since I was a kid. I remember taking ball hockey masks, taping them and paint them using aerosol cans (of paint), he said.

An air brush artist, Chubak said his involvement in masks came almost by accident. Chubak said he had always liked to draw, but found his artist niche when his wife gave him an airbrush in 1996.

“I just put my heart into it. It was something I thought I could be good at,” he said in a previous Yorkton This Week interview.

Since then, his ‘canvases’ read a little like a list on a corner yard sale. He said he has painted toilet seats, adding with a chuckle he only paints new ones, cell phones, guitars, snowboards, Harley Davidsons, Hummers and goalie masks. “A guy work wanted me to do his goalie mask and after that it was word-of-mouth, one would come, and then another,” he said, adding he is probably nearing 200 he has painted over the last few years.

Chubak said he enjoys the masks knowing they’ll be viewed by hundreds of fans.

Ideally, a goaltender provides a basic idea and then allows Chubak the artist freedom to be creative around the chosen theme. “I tend to like those people that give me a free rein.”

One of Chubak’s favourite masks was a dragon theme.

“Every scale was done on it. I tried to get in as much detail as possible … I tried to meticulously do the mask. I spent hours and hours on it,” he said.

That is the great thing about painting masks, “you just never know what’s going to be the next project,” said Chubak. He added he is currently working on a mask where the customer has told him to just go wild. The piece has skulls up the side, moving into the mists with some ghouls, while the top of the helmet is “a demented dragon head with ram horns on it.”

Lima agreed unique works are the most interesting. He is currently working on a mask for someone familiar to fans of Junior hockey in Yorkton’ Michael Clague, the younger brother of former Yorkton Terrier and SJHL Most Valuable Player Jason Clague. The piece exemplifies what an artist Lima enjoys doing. It is the third mask for the younger Clague who now plays senior hockey for the Lloydminster Border Kings.  The first two masks were in team colours, but with the new mask the goaltender and artist are taking the art in a new direction.

“This time we went totally different. It has a medieval theme,” said Lima, explaining the overall look is that of a castle wall, with a king, signifying the Border Kings, in full armour and carrying a sword.

“It’s a lot more fun than the other ones. A lot of the projects I’ve got on the go right now are fun projects,” he said. “It’s fun to have to push yourself.”

Another mask in progress is being created as a tribute to a lost friend of the goaltender. It will incorporate the dead friend’s name, and angels. “It will be a challenging mask to do,” said Lima.

Chubak said it can be difficult to see a mask leave the shop, knowing it will be abused on the ice every night, and most likely painted over in time – he adds he has goaltenders who have new art applied every season or two. “I’ve done some jobs that it was very hard to give back. I thought ‘wow to me these look really nice’.”

Chubak said he is just pleased when customers like the masks they have had painted, adding that is equal to having his art in any gallery. He recalled one young netminder who took the mask and began to look at it closely.

“Then he closed his eyes and actually dropped to his knees. He said ‘I’ve got to get my breath. I don’t want to use this one. I want to get another mask to use. I never expected anything this good.”



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