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Friday March 11th, 2011

Posted at 10:45am

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A Don Cherry mask painted by Dan Lessard, featuring the hockey icon and his dog, Blue. (Photo by: Dan Lessard)

From murals to masks and pins to needles, a Windsor artist has gained exposure with a Cherry on top.

Working at his almost 20-year-old business Rembrandt’s Brush, 47-year-old Dan Lessard knows a few things about art. While his work has appeared in unconventional places, he began just like anybody else.

“As long as I can remember I liked to draw,” said Lessard. “I can remember sitting on our porch at probably about six-years-old and my mom showing me how to draw bodies and necks on people. I took art in high school and actually failed it in grade 11, I hated the art history and wouldn’t do it.”

Aside from this, the only training he had was airbrush lessons. With natural talent, Lessard began tackling different projects, including hundreds of portraits and large-scale murals. Most of the latter are in Essex, the biggest being an eight by 40 foot mural with roughly 60 sports figures.

From there, Lessard’s career began taking off through experimentation. Applying his craft onto a different object, he soon opened the doors to some huge opportunities.

“I just tried to paint a goalie mask,” said Lessard. “It turned out so well that I decided to try to contact one of these large companies, show  them my work and see what would happen. After showing the people at Itech as well as Bauer, they were impressed with my work and basically the rest is history.”

In addition to street hockey mask and stick designs for Bauer and Rebok, Lessard began painting for pro and junior hockey teams. His list includes Team USA, Team Canada, Team Russia, the San Jose Sharks, Columbus Bluejackets, New York Rangers and Islanders. Now with about 300 masks under his belt, Lessard has become a veteran of a different kind between the pipes: He also painted two masks for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s movie The Tooth Fairy.

Dan Lessard's Garth Brooks mask, donated to the singer to raise money for his charity. (Photo by: Dan Lessard)

In addition to commercial work, Lessard has donated his talents to many charities. He’s painted a mask for Garth Brooks and has recently done work for organizations closer to home. Beyond providing trophies for the Windsor & Essex Cancer Centre Foundation’s bowlathon, he also contacted a Canadian celebrity to help another local cause.

“I have been involved with Brentwood for just over 22-years,” said Lessard. “Murray Nord approached me about painting a mask and I said that I would have to do one we could get signed so it would be worth something. After some thought I decided to see if I could get Don Cherry to sign a mask themed about him.”

Meeting before through a mutual friend, Lessard contacted the hockey icon. Cherry liked the idea and once the mask was completed, Lessard drove up to the former coach’s home with his dad and two of his children to get it signed in person.

Another one of Dan Lessard's amazing and intricate designs. (Photo by: Dan Lessard)

If that weren’t enough, Lessard has created several motorcycle designs and began doing tattoos two-years-ago. He enjoys having someone to talk to while working and considers it similar to painting masks.

“I find designing tattoos and designing goalie masks have alot of similar challenges,” said Lessard. “Masks have many contours as well as air holes, where the human body also has contour and shape and to create a design that fits the shape is what it’s all about.”

This summer Lessard will lend his talents to create items for the Breast Ride Ever. As for why he continues to help so many causes, he says it’s simple.

“Why do I donate,” said Lessard. “Well God gave me a gift to draw and paint and I love sharing my gift with everyone …I just love giving.”

One of many motorcycles featuring a design by Dan Lessard. (Photo by: Dan Lessard)

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