Posts in Traditional Patterns

Getting His Stripes

The end of the year is coming up quickly so I'm starting to feel the pressure of finishing up by the time 2012 rolls around. But I don't want to rush and do a sloppy job, I'll just have to up my game a little bit and sacrifice some sleep…

While I'm still not fully comfortable painting and wish I could replicate the old patterns more accurately I have to remind myself that this really is my first attempt at painting the blends and patterns and I'm trying to replicate the work of someone who had already painted hundreds of lions. It's not easy decoding the layers, but I'm definitely getting better at it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll stop writing now and let the shots speak for themselves. What do they say to you? Feel free to drop me a comment below and let me know!

Click any picture for a larger version.

Top Background Blends Forehead Background Blends Back Background Blends Top Patterns Tiger Stripes around the Horn Back Patterns Back Fins Background Blends Front Fins Background Blends Forehead Curl Background Blends Left Eye Blends

I want to help promote other artists who are working on traditional lion dance projects as well, so here's a plug for a T-shirt design featuring a southern lion head that was also made by Lo An Kee. Although it depicts a different Chinese general you can see some similarities in the painting patterns. Check it out and support him if you can!

More shots to come as we near the end of the project, stay tuned!

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose!

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!