Designed for Speed: Jordon Bourgeault’s Airbrush Artwork
Jordon Bourgeault (the owner and founder of JBo Airbrush) paints on surfaces of all kinds: motorcycles, guitars, shoes, human bodies, and a lot more—surfaces as large as three-story murals and as small as glasses frames. His business is growing fast, and his recent work on Olympian skeleton riders’ helmets has caught the attention of an international audience.
Bourgeault says he drew “all the time” as a kid and teenager, and he took up airbrushing as a hobby when he was introduced to it through a job as an automotive painter. That hobby led him to a job painting sets and props for films and events, then to many side projects, and eventually to opening his own studio about eight years ago.
These days, commissions of all kinds keep him very busy, but he has a special interest in painting hockey goalie masks and helmets for athletes, including skeleton riders.
“Goalie masks are very much an airbrush kind of medium,” Bourgeault says. “If you watch the NHL, they all have cool masks, so everyone in beer leagues and kids in junior leagues—they all get their masks painted by airbrushers, too.... Some of the first things I did were motorcycle helmets, and then straight on to doing goalie masks.”
FROM SCREEN TO SHEEN
When he got his start airbrushing, Bourgeault frequently drew his designs on carbon paper before transferring them to the destination surface, to use as outlines for his painting. These days, his initial sketching is likelier to be done in Adobe Photoshop CC.
He explains, “Sometimes I will just prime the object, draw right on it, and then paint right over the top of my drawing. But sometimes that’s not the best way to do things, because you may change your mind about a color or something and have to redo it, so I’ve moved to being more digital these days.... It can be helpful, too, for allowing a customer to sign off on a sketch or a design.”
After drawing a design in Photoshop or creating a collage, Bourgeault uses a vinyl cutter to machine-cut stickers that he uses as stencils to paint around (though he does frequently freehand paint some designs as well). Then, with helmets and other objects that need to shine, he adds an automotive clear coat.
GOING FOR THE GOLD
Skeleton racing involves maneuvering a tiny sled down a steep and treacherous track of ice—as fast as possible, head first. A good helmet is a must, and many athletes personalize their helmets with airbrush designs. Bourgeault’s designs were on several of the helmets at this year’s Winter Games.
The artist’s work on goalie masks led him to working on skeleton helmets, and the location of his business made him a natural: Bourgeault hails from Calgary, Alberta, which is also home to Canada Olympic Park, built for the 1988 Winter Games. Bourgeault says, “It has one of only 17 luge tracks in the world, all the high-level athletes travel to all the different tracks, and they all race together or train together. So first I earned a bit of a name locally, and now I get orders from athletes from all over the world, because they’re all coming here to train.”
He believes this was the first Olympics his helmets have appeared at, though he can’t be completely sure. Yun Sung-bin (representing South Korea), Akwasi Frimpong (representing Ghana), Kevin Boyer (representing Canada), Elisabeth Vathje (representing Canada), Rhys Thornbury (representing New Zealand), and Alexander Henning Hanssen (representing Norway) all sported JBo Airbrush designs on their skull protectors, and some of the designs—especially Yun Sung-bin’s “Iron Man” design—created a lot of online buzz. But Bourgeault is rather surprised at the attention his work has been getting.
“One of them that I guessed was going to get a lot of attention was the athlete representing Ghana, Akwasi Frimpong,” he says. “He was getting a lot of media attention because he’s the first to compete in that sport from Ghana and his story was so unusual; there was a media storm even leading up to him going into the Olympics. But I didn’t expect to even see the ‘Iron Man’ helmet—I was told that the athlete might not be able to wear it due to copyright issues with the character. And then seeing it was especially cool because normally his helmet is covered in stickers from different sponsors when he competes.”
Bourgeault says that a typical helmet may take 80 hours of work and cost between $1,000 and $1,500. He adds, “I like doing helmets and masks in that they are sort of smaller and the jobs don’t get too long. Generally, they’re like a week or two, up to three weeks. So you’re not on the project for so long that you start losing your drive.”
What’s next for JBo Airbrush? Bourgeault hopes to see more of his helmet designs make it into the NHL. “I have painted one NHL mask, but it was like a last-minute deal. I feel like I’ve worked myself up to the NHL level. And as I did with skeleton—just doing a few really good jobs and then kind of taking over that market—I would love to push for that.”
See more JBo Airbrush designs, check out this online gallery.