Ray Bishop: Mask Painter to the Stars

Renowned artist and painter Ray Bishop is known for creating some of the NHL’s best-known masks. Dominik Hasek, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, Al Montoya, Devan Dubnyk and a host of others all proudly wear Bishop’s designs. Ray answers a few questions for The Hockey Writers readership, addressing some of the peaks and pitfalls of the trade.

Al Montoya Mask
Al Montoya’s fighter jet-inspired mask from his Winnipeg Jet days. (Photo Credit to arcticicehockey.com)
1. Tell us how you got started painting masks (what did you do before this), and what it’s like to start having pros pursue your work and seek you out in particular?
I’ve been painting masks since 1996, so 19 years now. I got started simply by combing two things I enjoyed: hockey and art, along with a strong dislike for a boring desk job that I had. It is very flattering to have clients (pro or otherwise) seek out Bishop Designs to do a custom design for them. I am very grateful for the ability to be able to do something with the gifts that God has given me, be them great or small. Now that I have business partners and we are working together to grow the “Bishop brand” larger, I look to enrich their lives, those of our families’ and the lives of our employees, as well as the people we come into contact with. I truly believe that this is what life should be about.
2. Every painter has their own design philosophy to make themselves identifiable at a glance. Give us an idea of yours.
Be bold, detailed, and unique! There are a lot of gimmicks out there — some of which are pretty interesting — but I try to keep my style and the overall style of Bishop Designs true to the way I started things: bold, detailed, and unique.
Dominik Hasek in a game in 2007-08 with the Red Wings
Dominik Hasek had a combo painted by Bishop in 2007.
3. Approximately how much time is involved from the time you start drawing on the mask, to when you can say it’s ready?
There is a lot that goes into the entire process from the prep to designing — and from the airbrushing right through to the finish — so to single out the time for just one part of the process can be somewhat difficult. Overall, the “start to finish” time into each design can vary greatly. It probably averages out somewhere in the 30 to 50 hour range per design, with some reaching upwards of 60 to 70 hours. This equates to — once the clients turn in line comes up — usually 1 to 2 weeks until the finished mask is ready to ship.
4. I’m sure some people find the idea of painting NHL masks sexy. But what’s your most memorable example of a pro team that needed a new mask yesterday, and the type of pressure that puts on you and your workflow? What kinds of demands in general are on you when you’re painting for a pro, given their schedules and needs?
Sexy? That’s a good one. Not sure my wife finds it sexy, but hey I’ll give it a try. Seriously though, in 19 years of doing this there have been numerous times that pros and pro teams have put major pressure on us to get something done very quickly, so it’s hard to put my finger on just one example. Obviously, this makes things difficult when you are trying to meet the needs of all of your clients, as well as pros. When a pro client comes in for a design, they do generally go to the front of the line, which is just the nature of the business. We just have to do our best to adjust things and get the job done in the best and quickest way possible. The hardest part is that quality takes time and there is no way around this. Here at Bishop Designs, we never sacrifice quality.
(Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
Devan Dubnyk’s classic Oilers lid was a Bishop Designs creation. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
 5. When it comes to professional goalies, who is it that normally initiates contact? Equipment managers or the players themselves? During the process, who are you in contact with most often?
The contact comes from both equipment managers and from the goaltender or player themselves. At Bishop Designs we work hard to develop a good relationship with our clients so they are comfortable, and enjoy the process of designing their mask. After all, this should be fun, and if we are both having fun the end result is usually awesome!    “Bish-It-Up”!
Bishop also paints for college and beer league clientele, not just professionals.