A sweet art — sugar painting

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In and around China's southwestern Sichuan province, one can often find folk artists producing sugar paintings with liquid sugar along the streets, in the parks, and around the schools.

The artists normally sit before a wooden stand where there is a polished slab of marble in the middle. On the side of the stand is a revolvable bamboo arrow and a wooden plate painted with various patterns in a circle such as a loong (Chinese dragon), bird, dog, flower basket and so forth.

After paying about 5 jiao, or 1 to 2 yuan, the customer, normally kids, turn the arrow and wait till it stops. The pattern the still arrow points at is the one the artist is supposed to make with sugar.

Some rich kids or adults who do not want to gamble could order any pattern the artist could do by paying a higher price.

The painter uses the brown sugar or white sugar as the raw material, the bronze spoon and a shovel as the tool, and the slab of marble as the "paper". To acquire liquid sugar, he/she has to cook the solid sugar in a pot before painting. The liquid sugar falls down as a thin thread onto the "paper" from the slanting spoon. After a short while, a plane animal is created, or even a solid bike and a flower basket. Then the painter separates the painting from the marble with a shovel, puts a wooden prod on the painting or wraps it with a transparent plastic bag, and gives it to the customer. Most kids would be excited to see the sweet art shining in gold under the sun.

As a unique art for producing artistic pieces entirely composed of sugar, sugar painting is very different from normal painting. First, since the hot liquid sugar could freeze solid if it cools, the painter has to produce his/her work very quickly. Second, the painter has to follow some orders of strokes and draw a continuous line into a picture of an animal or other pattern. To get familiar with the whole process, the painter has to do some practice of normal painting in the first place.

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