How to Make Venetian Masks
A mask based on the Zanni Character – Zanni was the Comic Servant or clown and is where we get the word ‘zany’ from.
A mask based on a Volto mask – Volto means face and, as the type of mask worn by the majority of people, is also known as the Citizen Mask. There are many characters, styles, materials and colours that can be drawn upon to inspire your Venetian Mask design. This post selects two styles and gives you a few tips on where to start, what you can use and how to achieve some interesting paint effects.
Traditional masks are made from either papier maché or metal. For our masks, we used these great ready-made compressed paper-pulp blank masks as a base.
Because the masks are a stiff card consistancy with a paper finish, they can be cut to different shapes, painted with Acrylic, Gessoed to accept oil, have feathers, card, gemstones and other elements glued to them and be built up with Aluminium Mesh and plaster gauze to alter the shape.
For the Zanni Mask, Fine Aluminium Mesh is used to construct the foundations of the nose. Build up the nose prior to cutting the mask shape out so that the mask can be laid flat whilst the nose is attached.
Use the plaster gauze to secure the mesh structure to the mask.
Encase the entire nose with the gauze and use it to build up the shape of the bridge and nostrils.
As that is drying, you can work on the other features – cutting the mask to shape and applying more plaster gauze to shape the accentuated ridges on the brow. Leave this to dry completely which will take a few hours. Overnight would be best. To smooth out the texture of the gauze, we gave the mask a coat of gesso but this is not essential.
For the hammered metal effect, firstly give the whole mask a coat of very dark Acrylic Paint. We have used Liquitex Ivory Black. Acrylic Paint dries very quickly so by the time you have washed your brush out, it will be ready for the top coat.
For the top coat, we have dry-brushed Liquitex Iridescent Rich Bronze Acrylic Paint over all the raised areas.
Black 25mm Rustic Taffeta Ribbon provides a strong yet stylish way to keep the mask on. For the most secure way, attach three pieces – one from each side and one from the top of the forehead to run over the top of the head and tie at the back. Tie the side ties and then tie in the top ribbon.
For the Volta Mask, we have used two of the masks – one simply painted with Acrylic Paint to mimic an albaster face and the other cut to a suitable shape that will be decorated.
To give the base mask an added something, we have used Applicraft’s Craquelure to give it an interesting antiqued look.
To decorate the top mask, draw out a rough design and then use a relief paste to go over the design making it slightly raised.
This is all directly painted over with a dark base of Acrylic Paint. A mix of Raw Umber and Liquitex Iridescent Rich Bronze gives a good base colour. Dry-brush over the top with Liquitex Rich Gold using a largish soft brush – a Curtisward Mastertouch Aquamarine proved perfect for the job – and then pick out the relief sections with a little gold wax. This is applied with just your finger.
The paint will dry quickly so you can crack on with gluing the two masks together. Apply glue to both surfaces that are to be adhered and use clothes pegs to hold them together until dry. The longer this is left, the more permanent it will be so a good couple of hours at least.
Check out the Venice Festival, which runs through the last week of January and the first week of February every year, to see the millions of varieties of mask to inspire your own design.