Masks for Monday

Masks have been around since ancient times, incorporated into ceremonies, rituals, performance, and play. This universal art form is all about the exploration and communication of persona. Through the metaphor of the mask, you have the opportunity to consider the MANY parts of yourself, including those you reveal to others and those kept concealed from the world. As promised last week, below are some art therapy directives involving mask-making. Give one (or all!) of them a try. These can be really useful exercises in increasing self-awareness and self-acceptance. As you create, issues may come to the surface that could benefit from further attention. This is a great time to reach out to an Art Therapist for additional processing and support!

There are many different types of masks you can use to explore the below directives. I've listed the directions and materials for 3, including a tinfoil mask, cardstock mask, and plaster mask.Create the form of your choice and scroll down to see the art therapy directives. Let the exploration begin!  


1. Tinfoil Mask: (Materials: Tinfoil, masking tape, scissors)


  • Overlap 3 sheets of aluminum foil in a stack. Push the stack of sheets firmly onto your face. Make sure you have the general outline of your face imprinted (nose, lips, corners of your eyes and cheekbones).
  • Using a marker, trace around your eyes and any other areas (mouth, nostrils)  you want cut out.
  • Cut around the edges of the mask.  Carefully cut out the eyes and any other breathing holes.  
  • While pressing the back of the mask to your face to keep the features strong, gently place strips of tape onto the front of the mask. When you feel the mask's features are firm enough, place tape overlapping across all visible places of foil, including the back.  

2. Cardstock cut-out: (Materials:  Cardstock, marker, popsicle stick, masking tape, scissors)


  • Draw a large oval face on your piece of cardstock. Cut out the face.
  • Draw on 2 eyes (mouth and nose if you want). Cut out.
  • Attach the popsicle stick to the bottom using tape.

Plaster masks: (Materials:  Plaster cloth- I like Activa Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth, bowl with water, scissors, plastic mask template-found at most art stores)


  • Cut bandage plaster into strips of varying widths and lengths. 
  • Construct the first layer of your mask. Using 1 strip at a time, dip into your bowl of water, then run your fingers over the strip to remove excess water. Lay onto your plastic mask, smoothing the pores out of the plaster with your fingers. Use this same process to apply the rest of the strips, completely covering the mask.  Create an even base layer.
  • Add a second layer of plaster strips to your mask.  Try to create a uniform layer with as few bumps as possible.
  • Optionally, use extra plaster strips to build up any features you want more prominent…create a bigger nose, eyebrow ridges, add more character, etc. 
  • Let your mask dry completely. Remove from the plastic template. Cut out eyes.

***you can also easily purchase a cardboard mask (like the ones used in last week’s posting) at most art stores...

Mask Directives:

#1 Our many masks: Throughout the day we wear a multitude of masks. A professional mask at work, a distancing mask with strangers, a nurturing mask with loved ones…the list goes on and on. Make a list of some of your own masks. Pick out two that represent contrasting traits. Take your chosen mask (created from list above) and using art materials of your choice (paint, markers, collage, etc.) create your 2 contrasting “masks” on either side (inside and outside). These can be abstract images or realistic faces, there’s no right or wrong way! Use your creativity to explore the metaphor and gain a deeper understanding of yourself.

#2. Past self/Present self: Use mask-making to explore your past self/where you've been, and your current self/where you currently are. To start, do a brief writing exercise reflecting on these 2 aspects. Then, take your chosen mask from above and using art materials of your choice (paint, markers, collage, etc.) create your past mask on the inside and your current mask on the outside. Observe the differences and similarities.

  #3. Others vs. Self: Because a mask has both an inside and an outside, it’s a perfect vehicle to explore how others/the world see’s you (outside of the mask) vs. how you see yourself/really feel (inside of the mask). Often, there are many disparities between these 2 personas. Take some time to consider these 2 ideas, exploring how to represent them on your mask using the art materials of your choice (paint, markers, collage, etc.). Then get creative, letting the metaphor guide the way.