The world will see Jason Bartziokas’s talent this week when the Canadian artist’s intricate helmet designs take centre stage as the skeleton events kick off at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
You’ll see the Jasper, Alta. artist’s creations on Canadian skeleton athletes Sarah Reid and Eric Neilson as they zoom down the icy track. These athletes travel fast — at speeds of up to 140 km/h — which is one reason Bartziokas’s haunting handiwork fits so well with the sport: skeleton is fast, daring and scary. His helmets are exactly that: terrifying.
A gothic-inspired face featuring dark, sunken eyes is the image on Reid’s helmet. Black and white maple leaves and skeleton-like features also adorn the shiny surface. She wanted her helmet to be strong, but feminine, according to Bartziokas.
Neilson, on the other hand, wanted something “badass,” Bartziokas explains. He wanted the design to be vicious and eye-catching, so his helmet includes sharp teeth and demonic eyes.
Bartziokas’s first taste of the Olympic spotlight came in 2006 when skeleton athlete Paul Boehm asked him to design a snow leopard-inspired helmet. Word soon got around. Neilson heard about his work and contacted him in August via Twitter. Reid reached out shortly after.
He’s also created helmets for Boston Bruins goalie Chad Johnson (and has since Johnson’s junior hockey days) as well as Western Hockey League players such as Calgary Hitmen goaltender Mack Shields.
Combining sport and art
Designing helmets wasn’t always the plan for Bartziokas, whose first love was hockey. But when he discovered playing professionally wasn’t in the cards, he turned to his second passion: drawing.
He purchased an airbrush painting kit at the age of 18. Dreaming of one day showing his work in galleries, Bartziokas worked on developing his craft. He enrolled into art school and designed helmets on the side.
Social media and word-of-mouth helped him kick-start what’s now become a booming business. Come graduation time, Bartziokas had a ready-made career that combined his two loves: sport and art.
Fast-forward a decade and Bartziokas is now in the midst of the biggest art show of his life.
“I’m proud that I get to paint for them and that they chose me,” Bartziokas says of his Olympic spotlight through Reid and Neilson.
“I’m just excited as a Canadian fan of our athletes.”
Check out images of Bartziokas's helmet designs in the attached photo gallery.