Painting masks

November 7, 2011 at 11:35 am | Posted in culture, Taiwan | Leave a comment
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A while ago, I painted a wooden duck. Recently I went back to Sanyi (for the fifth time) and painted a wooden mask. A Chinese Opera mask. To be specific, a Monkey King mask.

Much like Sanyi Duck Factory, the Mask Museum is geared towards the DIY experience. There are hundreds of masks on display, although you can only choose out of a few dozen to actually paint. First, you have to trace the design on to the wood using carbon paper. Then you can start painting. Unlike at the Duck Factory, they didn’t encourage mixing the colours. The creative process here was more regimented, although I suppose you could have just created your own design from scratch.

I found the paint wasn’t as good as at the Duck Factory. Sometimes it was too thin, or they just didn’t have the colour that they’d shown on the design. I had to do several coats of paint before the color was thick enough. Another problem was the carbon tracing. Although it looked as if I’d painted over it all, once the mask was laquered, some of the carbon lines showed up again. It made the finished piece look a bit messy.

The other disappointment was that they aren’t actually real masks – you can’t wear them, only display them. The large mask costs 299NT (it’s about 20cm by 14cm). They also have small ‘owl’ keyrings or wooden postcards for 150NT. I wanted to paint a small mask (approx 10cm by 6cm), which they have displayed on a clock face, but I either had to do it with the clock or on the owl-shaped keyring. So I chose a big mask and decided I could use it as a teapot coaster.

However, once I’d handed it in to get lacquered I realised the next step was nailing it into a frame. So, no coaster for me after all.

In some ways it was easier than painting the duck because it had a flat surface and traced lines to follow. I really like the design itself, although I’m not sure I’d want to display it in my house – for a start, the colours don’t really match anything and the cheap quality of the wood, paint and lacquer is all too obvious. Not that my duck is a masterpiece, but it isn’t as big so you can’t see all the flaws. The masks did look beautiful when they were displayed together, but on their own they lose their impact.

Overall, the Duck Factory was a cheaper, friendlier and more creative experience. If you only paint one thing in Sanyi, make it a duck.

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