The Man Behind the Masks: Fran Drummond

Dan Flannery, Brian Boucher, and Franny Drummond

Have you ever drawn or painted something? Have you ever spent countless, tireless hours on a piece of art? Have you ever, after all your hard work, creativity, blood, sweat, and tears had been put down onto a piece of paper felt that feeling of finality or release? Have you ever done that knowing full well that your art was going to be a moving target for pieces of rubber travelling at speeds of over 100 miles an hour? Fran Drummond does this all the time.

From his little shop in Langhorne, Pennsylvania he crafts pieces of art that are basically built for nothing but to be beat up and battered. Drummond is an airbrush artist and he does art for just about anything that can be airbrushed including, but not limited to, goaltender masks, motorcycles, cars, and trucks. So just about anything that can get scratched, dinged, or dented, he does it. A fomer goalie himself, who had been scouted by colleges even, Drummond found a way to meld his passion for hockey and art and turn it into a profession. Though he may be new to the pro-game, but he’s been doing goalie masks for over 15 years now. Oh and it should be noted that he does things a little differently than some of the other artists in this business.

“I’ve realized I’m more into clarity and detail.”

And you can see that with every pro mask he’s done so far. They are true pieces of art, not just to protective the players, but for viewing and for appreciating the talent that Drummond has. That’s not the only thing that makes Drummond different when it comes to doing these helmets though, it’s his painstaking attention to detail, unbelievable work ethic, unique style, and genuine approach to his art. He has carried a lot of what he’s been used to doing when he paints things for bikers into this part of his job.

“Now I’m sitting here and polishing all of my helmets and I’m like ‘What am I doing? I’m wondering ‘Am I wasting my time? Are you gonna see that from a distance?’ But that’s what I’ve done. I’ve been doing bikes (for a long time) and you don’t wanna deal with bikers, you really don’t wanna piss them off. They’ll see every little speck. So I took that into the goalie helmets and thought that was the norm… It’s not the norm.”

The norm isn’t making sure every little hair of a huge roaring bear is visible to the naked eye. The norm isn’t making sure a piece of Kevlar and reinforced fiberglass is painted and polished to perfection especially when it could get banged up pretty quickly. But that is the norm for Fran, and it’s that dedication that sets him apart. It’s something any fan of the Philadelphia Flyers can truly appreciate; a blue collar attitude despite an apparent abundance of raw talent. He is very capable, but he can spend weeks on the same helmet, getting every little thing just right.

“On Tuukka’s (Rask) mask, I spent two weeks on that helmet and he’s not even wearing it. He said he loved it and was all stoked on the lid, but because he had a bad night the first time he wore it against Detroit, now he won’t wear it.”

Unfortunately that’s part of the job, yet it’s no wonder that Drummond’s been selected by the likes of Rask, Brian Boucher, Johan Backlund, and Sergei Bobrovsky to paint their head gear. His two most recent professional hockey related works, Rask’s tribute to Boston and Sergei Bobrovsky’s Balboa and Bob themed mask, truly show how he uses every inch of the mask to showcase his talent and his imagination.  Drummond uses the entire mask to display his pure ability to take an inanimate object and breathe life into it as well as his ever present stylistic traits. His style, reminiscent of both muralists and tattoo artists, has a certain flow and obvious movement to it. Your eyes are drawn through the piece by a sort of stream of consciousness and it’s continuous, no matter how incongruous the subject matter may seem.

Tuukka Rask Mask Sketch

(If you want to see the finished mask click here: http://thegoalieguild.com/2011/02/rask/)

With Rask’s mask, you can see how he takes a Boston theme to the extreme, including everything from the Bruins logo, to Gary Cheevers, to giant snarling bears, even the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge and it all seems so effortless the way he was able to fit all of these things together and make them communicate.

On Bobrovsky’s mask, it’s just a bunch of stuff really, that is somehow tied together and makes perfect sense. On one side you have a pair of American Flag raising and fist pumping Rocky Balboas hovering around the Flyers logo, while on the other side, it’s a bunch of iconic Bobs like the ever sinister Simpsons character Sideshow Bob taking up the majority of the canvas behind a Flyers logo again, while a faded Mount Bobmore is seen in the background above Sideshow’s hair, paying homage to Bob’s Big Boy and Bob the Builder. Above the cage, you can see the flag fades into a blue sky with two jet fighters flying in formation to signify Bobrovsky’s favorite movie in Top Gun, while under it is his signature “Bobs” written in stone letters. Drummond had this to say about Bob’s mask:

“When we got it, I had no idea what to do. If I asked to paint Bob’s mask, what would you do? I started drawing and these are the sketches I came up with.”

Sergei Bobrovsky Original Mask Sketch

Sideshow Bob Sketch

Rocky Sketch

Jets Flying in Color Sketch

The Front of Bobrovsky's Mask Sketch

Sideshow Bob in Color Sketch

Sideshow Bob In Color Sketch Closeup

“When I went down there to show him sketches, he understands but doesn’t speak English, so I was like ‘Here’ and he was like thumbs up, so Derrick the equipment manager and I look at each other and go ‘I guess he likes it?’”

And a few weeks later we now get to see the mask all prettied up for everybody’s cameras. All of this came from Fran Drummond’s imagination though and you have to give him credit because as difficult as it is to tie all of these ideas he had together, it’s seamless and perfect in how chaotic it is. It’s a pretty good representation of the perception of Bobrovsky’s personality as a very excited, young goaltender who is about to play his first game as an NHL goalie in the playoffs this coming Thursday.

Finished Mask Sideshow Bob Side

Finished Mask Rocky Balboa Side

Mount Bobmore

Finished Mask Front

Finished Mask Top With Jets

When you look at these masks and compare them to say Brian Boucher’s very simple mask this year, it’s a stark contrast, yet you can see similar attention to detail with a closer look. The word “Flyers” is written in a highly stylized font and every so faintly present all over the mask behind a jagged orange and black tribal design.

Brian Boucher Mask Sketch

Boucher Mask Sketch Ideas

Boucher Mask Sketch Idea

It’s a nice touch, but it’s the way it’s integrated so lightly, that if you just look at the white of the mask as empty space, you’d probably miss it. That’s what Drummond does completely different than most guys in this business: he uses every inch of the mask to say something different and adds a personal touch on everything he does, no matter how long it takes, which is really what it’s all about when it comes to art.

“I have a passion for doing my art and these helmets and for my team. It’s awesome to get to do these masks, but it’s even better that I get to do work for the Philadelphia Flyers.”

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All sketch photographs taken by Laura Dobrowolski

All mask photographs taken by Daniel Flannery

Visit Drummond Custom Airbrush here: http://www.paintzoo.com/