The role of makeup
Kabuki makeup has several fixed types, and its role is to show the personality and status of a character. This means that the audience can understand the basic disposition of a character that has entered a scene from their appearance. An actor first covers his whole face with one color. For example, white signifies a good person or a high-status character, a skin color close to tea-brown is for townspeople or villains, and red shows the subordinate or retainer of a villain. After covering his face with the base color, the actor will use vivid colors such as red, black, or blue to paint his eyebrows, the area around the eyes, lipstick, rouge, beard, and more, getting a feel for his role. Applying this kind of makeup is called kao o suru, or “doing the face.”
What is kumadori?
Among the different types of makeup that use bright colors, kumadori makes a particularly strong impression. This method of makeup involves the actor using a brush to draw lines on his face after he has applied the base color, then smudging one side with his fingers; this is not referred to as “painting,” but “taking” or “drawing” (toru) kuma. Kuma refers to the boundary between light and shadows, and represents the blood vessels and muscles in an exaggerated manner. It is said that kumadori makeup was begun by Ichikawa Danjuro I, who created the bold and strong aragoto (exaggerated) style of Kabuki. The colors used for the kuma each have their own meaning. For example, crimson red beniguma can express a sense of justice, courage, or hot-blooded youth, indigo blue aiguma may show large-scale villainy or a vengeful ghost, and light brown chaguma can indicate ogres and spirits. In addition to color, there are also many different ways of drawing kuma.