Monday, October 12, 2009

Firebird Mask - Works in Progress

I thought it may be mildly interesting to show the progress of one of the masks I'm working on. I was commissioned to create a firebird-inspired mask, and decided this would be an excellent opportunity to test out the new, higher-quality leather I was recommended to use.

First some sketches:

As with any commission, I create a number of sketches to get some ideas on the table. Depending on what the person wants, it may take only a few sketches, or a lot. In this case, the person was quite clear on what she wanted, which is good for me - good communication always makes a job easier.

We ended up using a mixture of several sketch designs to come up with one final sketch. Then it was time for color sketches, and after a couple of revisions for those, this was the color scheme chosen.

Again, I am very new at mask making, so I am still ironing out my own methods. I've learned quite a lot from a mask maker whose work is on DeviantART and Etsy, who was kind enough to post a very helpful tutorial on how to make leather masks. In case you're curious, you can find her tutorial here. However, I've done a good number of drawing and painting commissions, so the commission process is pretty much the same even if it's a medium I'm still learning. Once I have the sketch and color sketch done, then it's time to start on the final piece.

I didn't take photos of actually tooling the leather, but at this point in the process, the mask has been tooled, cut, and shaped. Shaping involves wetting the entire mask and molding it around your face until you get the desired shape. Once you have a basic shape, you put it in the oven at around 250 degrees F to let it dry. I take it out multiple times to make sure I get the shape right. I've messed up a few masks mostly due to my own inexperience, but I think I got this one shaped just the way I wanted.

You may also notice the beak is a bit longer than in the sketch. Since I am still learning how to make a 2-D sketch that will match the physics of a 3-D mask, sometimes once I cut out a full-sized paper version of the mask to transfer onto the leather, I spot some things I need to fix. If I had left the beak as it was in the sketch, it would be nothing but a nub! And a graceful firebird needs a much more elegant beak.

More progress shots will come! Coming up will be dyeing the mask, painting it, and then putting the feathers on.

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