As part of apexnews.co.nz‘s new feature, which is to shine the spotlight on the people who tend to be behind the scenes and not really recognized for their work in the mainstream media.
We previously covered Peter Hughes from Holden Motorsport and Glen King from King’s Fibreglass in this series of interviews. The next interview will be done on a top helmet artwork designer who does work with many Supercars drivers.
Apexnews.co.nz‘s lead editor, Steven Wright caught up with a top helmet artwork designer Anthony Wolski from Antman Helmet Design to talk about what goes into the process of a helmet artwork design.
APEX: To our viewers, tell us who you are and what you do in relation to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
ANTMAN: Hey everyone, my name is Anthony Wolski, better known to my customers as Antman. I am the owner of Antman Helmet Design and the creator of the Antman Custom Trix helmet accessories line.
My relationship with the Supercars series is that I paint for many of the drivers and teams including James Courtney, Jamie Whincup, Garth Tander, and Tim Slade to name but a few.
We also work with Supercars to create various projects together like the two ‘100 wins’ helmets presented to Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup of late.
APEX: I hope I’m right to assume that you’re a fan in motorsport since you were a kid, how did you get into motorsport?
ANTMAN: I’ve been and avid supporter of Motorsport since I was very young, always being around my fathers (at the time profession) car dealerships and his relationship with the car manufacturers and was attending races back in the days of Brock and Moffat.
My father also raced in the early days at the Speedway, so I guess I was always around it throughout my younger days not knowing at all that one day I would be working alongside my heroes. To be honest, although I’ve always been into my artwork, I never had any aspirations of this type of work as the opportunity came far later in my life.
APEX: As you must be a fan of the Virgin Australia Supercars Series, so I have to ask this question. Are you Holden or Ford supporter? and why did you pick that side?
ANTMAN: I drive a new Ford Ranger personally, but I am an unbiased supporter as I really have to be. My drivers are from both sides so I support the guys that support us. I don’t really have a preference now. I’m stoked when Jamie [Whincup] wins in a Holden or I’m equally stoked if Chaz [Mostert] takes a win in the Ford.
APEX: Which V8 Supercars or ATCC driver did you support when you first got interested in the series (even if it was your childhood V8 Supercars/ATCC hero)?
ANTMAN: ‘Brocky’ of course, but when I first got into the sport it was V8 Supercars and I made a lot of friends. Steve Ellery was the man who gave me my first shot at the main game and we are still friends to this day.
I’ve always admired the great drivers who have achieved great things like Skaife, Murphy, Lowndes and now Whincup who I believe to be the best we’ve seen to date.
He’s had a couple of rougher years but he’s the type of talent that you can never count out as he has so much experience of winning championships.
APEX: As you became self-employed to design artwork to go on driver’s helmets, what career path did you take to get there? and why did you decide to go down that path?
ANTMAN: Funnily enough I was a professional musician for most of my younger life throughout my 20s and into my early 30s, I was an artist for my day gig and played in various bands at night. I got my first real design gig when I was 15.
It was a classic old school printing company when there were no computers and everything was done by hand, this is where I began learning the art of knife work. I then became an illustrator for a company that produced gaming signage for the casino industries back when the displays were all sculpted and fabricated (not like now where all you get is a Plasma screen).
This is where I harnessed my artistic skills such as large scale mural work, electronics and fabrication. After this I worked as a special effects artist for Warner Brothers where I learnt the art of sculpture, modeling, casting, robotics and pretty much anything that appears to look lifelike.
This was a great experience. All the while I never knew the importance of obtaining these skills as I was still trying to become successful in my so called music career.
The helmet painting came as a hobby and was purely self-taught, back in those days nobody gave you advice, it was a very secretive art form as not many people were doing it, or should I say doing it well.
So over the years, I have been able to gradually put to use all of the different skills I acquired from so many different mediums into one art form. This is the skeleton of Antman Helmet Design.
Along with this, I was able to create the unique brand of helmet accessories that is now a worldwide recognized and respected brand used by thousands of drivers from amateurs to the top levels of professional motorsport.
This would not have been possible without my artistic grounding and understanding of the tools needed to turn my ideas into a reality today.
Good lesson for the young aspiring artist, it takes years of patience and honing your skills to become what you want to be. Talent alone is not enough, unfortunately.
Now I know I’m getting old when you give advice.
APEX: With your business Antman Helmet Design, who do you design artwork for? Supercars and non-Supercars related.
ANTMAN: We design for various people including drivers I mentioned above, plus we work with Nelson Piquet Jr on specialty projects as well as Adam Carroll for Jaguar racing in the Formula E championship.
We continue to work with drivers from the US and Europe and many Saudi drivers including Saudi royalty Prince Abdul Azziz (ATF), but most of my customers are from the corporate world including Australia, Singapore, China, UK, and the Middle East etc
APEX: My personal favourite artwork that you designed is James Courtney’s 2010 Hamilton 400 one where it had some pretty cool Maori designs on it. Which helmet artwork was your personal all-time favourite to design?
ANTMAN: Sorry to disappoint but I’m a progressive artist by nature so I’m always looking forward artistically. Sometimes I look back through the years to what I created and go, wow, I remember that one and feel very proud of where I came from to what I can achieve now as an artist.
I love the ones that seem to have a timeless look to them. They looked awesome and in vogue 10 years ago and they still look awesome today. For example your beloved Kiwi, Greg Murphy’s helmets. These helmets are a good example.
I’ve always enjoyed James Courtney’s lids as we have had a long-standing relationship both on and off the track so it’s always been enjoyable evolving his style.
We are just about to create his 2nd Boost Mobile creation for 2017 so be sure to keep your eyes out for that one in the coming weeks.
APEX: It must be a long process to design artwork for a particular driver’s helmet, so can you please tell us in detail about the process from the driver’s first point of contact to the final product which we see at the track.
ANTMAN: Yes this is true, and the process is often misunderstood so please allow me to explain as best as I can. One thing to remember every artist has his or her own personal formula and process to produce a project and this will depend on their level of artistry and experience so don’t make the assumption that all helmet painters come from the same basket.
The process begins with the obvious introductions and design brief from the customer, they decide on either a full helmet/paint package or just paintwork alone. Quotes are written up, deposits are taken and the design process begins. This may take quite some time as revisions and tweaking need to be accounted for and then the design which is computer generated and to scale is signed off for production.
The painting process begins with the complete strip of the helmet back to the shell, only the straps remain, everything else is removed and catalogued. Some parts may need to go out for chrome plating or anodising.
The shell is then prep-sanded and prepared for base coating. We do not use original white finish, we completely re-coat the shell to white. Once the shell and other parts are base coated, then the line work process begins.
Everything that needs to be reproduced from the design is then transferred over to the cutting computer where we can accurately cut the various stencils need to create the livery, this may take many individual stencils, kind of like a screen print process in a way depending on the logo or artwork.
I remember that in the first years of doing this I hand cut everything as I couldn’t afford a plotter. I use my own personal way of the lining as I prefer vinyl than pinline tapes, this way I can cut whatever width I may need for each particular design and is much thinner and eliminates blow through under the tape when joining.
Next, most colours sections are applied. Depending on the complexity of the design I’m creating, I personally choose to not paint the entire artwork on the first session. As there may be paint builds in certain areas you need to overlap and if you overlap with a metallic, then you will see the line underneath.
So it’s best to plan your design out carefully so you not coming back on the project creating to much build and weight. I use very thin build intercoat clears between sandowns ( this is how you get the flat finish)and then a Hi solid clear for the final glaze.
To finish, I cut a few microns and any impurities off the surface via wet dry sanding and polish to glass.
It’s a drawn out process at times but if you stay on the correct path and follow your program the final product is a pure work of art. I hope this has been some sort of insight into my day to day world.