Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making Masks

            If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then if you still don’t succeed, take a break and go play some Robot Unicorn Attack. Then try again. At least, that’s my approach to art.

            Take my mask making. The first few masks I ever did were back in college. I used some of those cheap plastic masks from Hobby Lobby and painted them up. Hell, I did all the ornaments for them out of Sculpey and glued them onto each face. Not very chic, I have to say.

            I let the mask thing slide for a few years until I found myself in a bind for a Mardi Gras costume for a party. Suddenly I found myself doing all kinds of research into what sort of materials I could sculpt it from, how to construct it, etc. When I was done I had an iridescent green mask with a complete mane of peacock feathers.

            Only to find out that the party had been canceled. All dressed up and nowhere to go, as they say. But that one project had put a bug in me. I just couldn’t stop making masks. Over time, my materials and methods have changed considerably. There were some failures. I keep them in the Drawer of Shame where they will never see the light of day to offend me with their monstrosity. But without them, I would not have improved.

            This is my workspace today:
    Yes, it resembles a war zone. A war zone of art. Those paints gave their lives gladly for the cause, oozing their colorful liquids onto the uncaring tabletop. Even my poor tools are so coated with resin that I occasionally have to chisel them apart. But the process of evolution goes on. With each mask I learn what is and is not possible, thereby improving my technique.

As it stands now, I sculpt each mask on a model, with a covering between them to keep the resin from irrevocably bonding to the model beneath. Then I leave it to harden overnight.

Next I pry the mask off, shredding the covering to pieces in the process. This is somewhat tricky as the mask may not be fully cured and is therefore delicate. I let it sit a little longer, then go around the edges of the mask to trim off excess resin.

I then apply a basecoat. I usually choose black, as it provides the most contrast for the mask as a whole. Once that is dry, I begin to paint in earnest. I use several different techniques. I’m a big fan of drybrushing, which helps to leave some shadows in the mask, but sometimes I have to paint those in by hand. Once the painting is done an the iridescence has been applied, I seal the entire mask to keep the paint from flaking under stress. And this is the result:
And honestly? If you want to make a mask, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my process. Mess around. Find your own way. My method is geared towards my strength: sculpting. Find one that suits yours. The beginning results might be modest and take a long time, but so long as you keep tweaking your process you’ll keep getting better at it and cut down on the time it takes.

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