This is quite an excellent mask, both in concept and excecution. You've got the likeness of the lion down very well.
While the idea of a lion representing the sun in some way is by no means new (many other artists have made the connection between the sun's rays and the mane of a lion), this is a very good version of the idea.
The mane transforming into rays is very well done - at first glance, it looks as though it's simply a lion with a very curly mane, but on closer inspection, it's easy to see the sun motif. No strand of hair or ray seems out of place or overworked (and honestly, I kind of like how in this picture, the gap between the top two rays kind of looks like a heart, at least when I squint).
The colours are well-chosen. I really like the way you've made the white details fade into the gold; the colours are clear enough that none of them get lost, but flow into each other very well.
The only part I can see that disturbs the overall impression is the thick black line running from the corner of the eye down to the bottom of the mask. I actually searched for photographs of lions to see whether or not they had such a line (I know you do quite a bit of research with some of your masks), and while some pictures showed a distinct marking, it was not this distinct, and certainly not black.
My point is that it is a very sharp contrast to the rest of the mask, and kind of throws me off a bit. It would probably not bother me as much if I could see the mask straight on - thus seeing both sides of the nose - but compared to the rest of the colours, it looks a bit.... too heavy.
Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful critique! I'm honored that you took the time.
I agree; the black markings are a bit stylized and heavy...with the realism in the carved fur it does sort of slam up against that thick black line. I like those tear patterns on cats ( most notably seen on the cheetah). Tear markings run from the inner corner of the cat’s eyes to the side of the cheeks near where the whiskers start. They help to reduce the glare of the sun and aid the cat in hunting during the day. Young lions have them and they gradually fade with age, but on lions they're more subtle than on cheetahs, and never black. I think I'll try my next version of this mask with thinner, more subtle tear markings in brown instead of black, & see how that looks.
Thank you again!
Ah - I thought those marks reminded me of something; the cheetah really does have a distinct tear marking. I think trying it in brown, and a bit thinner, might work well. Perhaps dry-brushing it over the gold?