October 11, 2011

One of the great classics of Chinese literature is a novel known as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the novel three warring states are battling for dominance of ancient China and many of the stories and symbolisms have become entwined into the Chinese popular culture and ethos. For example Southern Chinese lions are traditionally named after the heroic generals in the novel and many of the routines the lions perform retell their exploits.

In the Cantonese opera these generals are designated by the color and patterns of their costumes and face paints. These colors have carried over to the design of the traditional southern Chinese lions. The lion in this project was originally painted in the style of general Huang Zhong. This style is signified by a yellow base color with black accents and, because of his age, a white beard and fur. Since my intention is to restore this lion as it was, I will be keeping the same basic coloring and patterns.

Since I’m still learning the art of painting, Corey spent a lot of time with me going over different brushes and the way they are used to create the various patterns. I wanted to start with the smaller pieces so I could get a feel for the brush work before painting on the head itself.

As previously mentioned, traditional painting required a lot of layering and background colors to help the main colors and patterns stand out better. One of the trickiest things about this project was trying to figure out the order of the layers so they could be replicated. I had to spend a lot of time studying the pictures I took of the head before the original paper was stripped off to figure it out and for some areas I’m still not sure I’ve gotten it right. Have a look:

Click any picture for a larger version.

This lion has genuine wooden eyes from China. Most lions have cheap plastic ones these days. Raw Wooden Eyes Finished Eyes All painted and wired, ready to attach.
Ear Backgrounds Finished Ears Ear Detail Ear Detail These were the first parts I painted. I’m still not comfortable painting the blends where two background colors meet, but I’ll be getting a lot of practice doing that!
Mouth Start Finished Mouth Top Finished Mouth Bottom Mouth Side Detail Mouth Center Detail The tongue was papered and painted after painting the background pattern.
The green nose is a traditional element. Finished Nose Nose Side Detail The thin blends were pretty tricky, requiring a small chisel-tipped brush to paint.

Comparing these with the originals, I have a long way to go. I especially need to work on keeping my hand steady and strokes consistent. Keep checking back, I should have some more pictures by the end of the month, and feel free to leave some feedback or comments below, thanks!