Where to now?

I’m finally done and dusted with the Choi Sik Guan Gong lion (rainbow lion). So where to now?

I’ve decided to use this blog to document all my other little projects that I do relating to lion dancing and lion heads and to the lion dancing scene in Sydney (from my miniscule perspective). Just check the My Other Projects tab in the menu for updates.

I’ve got a couple of projects lined up already.
– There’s two more lion heads from the Dragon Style School that have taken a heck of a beating. Outwardly they still look good, but I’ve had a good inspection of them both and they’ll need a fair bit of work. One’s a Liu Bei and the other is a Zhang Fei. They’ll be a good start.
– I’m keen on making a golden/bronze/ orange coloured lion head, not too dissimilar to the Golden lion that Yun Fook Tong used in that 1986 lion king competition.
– I also have another rainbow lion tail sitting around which needs a head to attach itself to so maybe a fresh faced Liu Bei lion head at some point.
My kung fu Senior in Hong Kong has also been kind enough to save me another battered lion head from a charcoal ending so I can see it out to its former glory. (I don’t know how I’m going to actually fix him especially with the lion being an 8 hour flight away. Maybe I’ll carry him home on my next visit that way).

To kick things off. I’m going to take you back in time to the the old black and white Zhang Fei head that I restored a few years back.
Zoe’s had a look at it and isn’t too impressed with my shaky paint job so she’s decided that she’ll give him a one over to sharpen him up. She’s still in the process of doing so. I’ve also ordered a black and white tail for him and it’s arrived so here is the complete lion minus a second coat of painted love from Zoe.

Front on view of lion. sitting on its new tail

Front on view of lion. sitting on its new tail

The tail in all its glory

The tail in all its glory

The original neck piece

The original neck piece

Neck piece reunited with its head and new tail

Neck piece reunited with its head and new tail


Rabbit fur and eyelids

It’s been a long while since my last post.
I’ve moved houses and gone bush for a work stint hence the delay.

I’ve come home for the weekend and managed to work on the eyelids and stick on the rabbit fur. The thickness of the rabbit fur is different in the various areas of the lion. I wanted it to be as sparse as possible to give the lion’s furry bit an uneven almost unclean look. At the back of my mind as I was gluing it on was a scene early on in Jet Li’s Once Upon a Time in China part 3 when Wong Fei Hung’s father grabs a hold of one of his student’s brushes and gives him a tip on how to paint the lion heads face. His main message was along the lines of the strokes shouldn’t be too clean because no face is ever perfect or even.


Painting finally completed!!!

It’s done!!! I wish I could say I painted it all on my own but alas, it’s was all Zoe’s brilliance and hard work which has gotten us to this point!!!! What a relief to finally get the painting done and I must admit, I’m a very happy man.
To start off with, here is a picture of my lounge room which I doubled as my workshop. One corner ceiling was converted to display my completed items. Just a little bit of motivation to keep me going every time I sat down to watch TV….. ……..I would plonk myself on the couch and call out “Zoe, you haven’t finished painting the lion” before proceeding to relax and watch TV while supervising Zoe =D Here is Zoe hard at work putting on the final touches
You can just make out the bottom of my little TV above her head. I took this picture, sitting on the couch. BEST Thanks to the guys on liondancing.org/forum for advising me on the use of varnish. I ended up with a Josonja’s Polyurethane water based gloss varnish and applied 3 coats to give the lion a heck of a glossy look.

And without further adieu, here are some of the photos

This is what the eyes ended up looking like. A combination of the previous two eyes we had earlier. 

And …………………………. here he is!!!

And the lovely Zoe with our painted lion head.
Picasso in the making.

Hope you like the look of it so far

painting progress

More colours go on and the lion is starting to take on some life.

I should note that the painting was a bit all over the place. Zoe got excited and started going ahead painting the details in before she got the base colours right. There’s a few bits which you can see which look quite messy, where she’s painted over sections roughly in prepartion to fix it up afterwards.

Note along the cheek, zoe had initially painted in the black spikes but painted over it to get the base blue colour right

By this stage, Zoe had decided that she would put the detailing in a bit later and get the colours right so you’ll see certain sections like the black swirls around the nose and the spikes along the top lip with unclean lines. 

We had to improvise for the bit on the side of the eye. We ended up with a simple stripe pattern.
Front shot with cleaner lines.


Step 22 and so the painting begins

I thought I’d use this post to thank my girlfriend Zoe for volunteering to do the painting.
It’s probably better that she does it because she’s much more of a perfectionist so I know that the lion will come out much better than anything I could have produced.
My little contribution was to sketch on the lion all the patterns and to explain to her what needs to be painted what colours and to orientate her to the various screenshots I have taken. My other little contribution was to paint the ears so I can say that at least I painted a part of the lion myself =D

Check it out
This was my contribution with the painting. I suspect Zoe will repaint it. She thinks I did a rushed job and my lines aren’t clean enough. 
And now back to Zoe’s painting
The left and right eyes are different. She was experimenting with shading and blends

Zoe thought it would be cool to have an aqua nose. 
I got her to change it back to green. 

Keep your eyes peeled for more to come

Step 20 part 2- sketching the design

Ok, so managing to get screenshots of lion head is one thing, translating that into clean lines and a design with definite colours is another.
I managed to work out a fair bit of the design but I had to make up certain bits.
I’m glad that this lion had bristle fur so that I could appreciate the painting.

My sketches on paper
Sketches on the lion

Progress report .. from then til now 18 months later. Here’s a snapshot

Before I start posting up pictures of the painting process, I thought I’d post a couple of pictures from whence I started to where I am now. So far, it has probably taken me about 18 months of slow, tedious, painstakingly boring work, with many breaks in between followed by very short periods of inspiration and a bit of an ass kicking by my girlfriend to get the job done.

Step 20 the design pattern

Making and painting this lion head has given me a much much much greater appreciation about the artisans that make lion heads currently, but especially the artists that made them in the past. The amount of details and complex painting that went into the lion heads of old is enough to do my head in!!!
I have literally spent hours and hours watching the lion dance scene of the movie Lion Vs Lion over and over and over again trying to work out the paint job of all the various parts of the lion. In the end I managed to screen shot as many bits as I can but am still short on a couple of parts of the lion which I’ll need to rely on my imagination to complete.
I’ll emphasize it again, it ceases to amaze me how much work and dedication would have gone into making these lion heads. I can understand now why the teams in the past would only bring out one lion head when they went out to perform. Any more that one would be a disservice to each lion head not getting the full attention it deserves.

These are some of the screen shots I managed to capture. Hopefully, you can make out some of the detailing that has gone in. There was a lot of squinting eyes to make out all the fine detail.

Step 19 the tail

I’ll preface this post by thanking my kung fu senior Pan for his help in getting me this tail!
Getting the tail was not really the next step on my to-do-list but none-the-less, it was the next step forward in my lion coming together. And it was quite funny how I came to have the tail.

During the last month, I managed to get away from Sydney and travel to Vietnam and Hong Kong.

I knew that Vietnam was the place to get very cheap (pricewise) lion heads and so potentially lion head parts. I ended up wandering around Cholon (in Saigon) and stumbling upon a few lion head shops that sold lions and dragons to…… funnily enough… a couple of the kung fu schools that are running in my area. However, the style of lions that they made were the new fluffy lions with short tails and lots of sequins. Not really what I was after and to top off my dejection and not finding what I wanted that said it would be difficult for them to make a long multicoloured tail due to lack of materials. Everything else they had on offer by way of pom poms and fur was just not available. Not to discredit the lions that they made, but they just didn’t have what I was after.

However, I had plan B….. Hong Kong. I had contacted one of my kung fu seniors in Hong Kong beforehand to see if he could help me get some lion head parts for my lion. He said that if I managed to get a Chinese visa in time, he would take me into Canton to where some of the lion manufacturers are so I could tell them and see for myself what they have on offer. I was so excited about the prospect of seeing for myself some of the pros in action but unfortunately, the cost of making a Chinese visa at such short notice would have cost me a lion head in itself!!!
Again I felt bitterly disappointed and not getting the supplies that I wanted.
That’s when my senior said, oh by the way, I have a tail that I managed to salvage from one of the old lion heads that they were throwing away at the school that I work at. You can look at it and throw it out if you dont want it. It’s tattered and not in the best condition…………………..

This is the tail that he showed me. =D =D =D =D EXACTLY what I was after in such good condition. Almost all the bells are still attached, all the metallic discs are still there, there are no rips in the fabric, the colours are still vibrant, there’s a “sausage” spine the stretches through it.

Step 1: The Base 21st February 2011

For those of you who aren’t familiar with lion dancing or lion heads, the base is bade of a large D ring with two bars cutting across the flat art of the D to form handles

The only types of bases I’ve seen are either made using thicker pieces of bamboo or a thin metal bar for the D part and either wooden or PVC handles

I opted for the metal bar for the D ring after failing to find anywhere that sold bamboo strips.
They’re quite easy to find at any hardware store.  Bending it wasn’t too hard either. I used the base of my existing lion as a template and bent the bar around it to get the right curvature. Then fold the remain parts to get the flat surface. The two ends were joined together with some thick metal wire. I’ve seen other people drill holes into the bar itself and use that to tie the ends together but I didn’t have the necessary tools at hand.

For the handles, I decided to fashion them out of a wooden broomstick handle I found at the hardware store .
I sawed it as best I could to get both ends level. I ended up sawing the tips of the handles to flatten it out so they would sit on the bar snugly without rolling around and then using thick metal wire to fasten them to the base. (Without too much woodwork knowledge or proper equipment, it was quite difficult getting the planes of the flat bits equal on both ends of the handle. It ended up being a trial an error job)