As such, I did some asking around (yes, when you've been a writer half your life the reporting brain is always on!) and learned of David Gunnarsson.
Naturally, I had to give him a ring to ask him about his inspiration and technique. Quite a down-to-earth and humble guy.
Here's some extra tid-bits from the cutting room floor ...
Gunnarsson’s painting technique is a combination of tracing out designs -- often used for a team’s logo -- and free hand. “When I paint characters -- for example if you remember the Varlamov mask, he had the eagles on his mask. That is painted airbrush freehand,” he says.
Afterwards, Gunnarsson does some research, pulls together a design idea and emails some sketches to the goalie for approval. Once he signs off, Gunnarsson starts to paint. He estimates each mask takes 10 hours to complete.
He likes a lot of detail,” says Gunnarsson of Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. “When you look at the mask, it looks like a classic design, but when you come up close you see all the details.”
The water-based paint dries almost immediately, Gunnarsson says, and then he applies many layers of protective clear coating on top of his completed art work -- lest it be destroyed by the impact of flying hockey pucks and ambitious offensive players.