Faces are Expressive!

So it turns out there are about 21 facial expressions that people typically make. So why do most artists only paint a few expressions? That is what I’ve been asking myself lately as I dabble with creating comic art. Usually artists only paint happy, neutral or stoic faces; which makes sense if they are just trying to convey a very basic portrait.

In the book “Making Comics”, there is a huge segment on facial expressions, and how to draw them. When you draw faces there are endless options to convey the meaning you are trying to portray. And with comics you want the images to stand alone, so that the reader can get the gist of the overall mood tones just by looking at the pictures. The best comics tell the story detail in pictures so that the pictures can practically stand alone while the text is just the icing on the cupcake.

Here are my first forays into studying facial expressions. On Saturday I drew a basic portrait, then tried to copy the portrait two times on separate pieces of paper. Each one looked so different than the others, even though the basic expression was pretty much the same. Simple tweaks…like small changes in line work can portray a myriad of emotions.

Face One: a happy face

Face One: a happy face

In this first drawing the face is pretty basic. The woman looks content and so I put a caption with it that was similar in vibe. In the next drawing, the face turned out fairly angry! The disgruntled expression on the woman’s face can really be felt at a visceral level. I added a frown line and accents to the lower lashes to further portray her anger. You can see that just a small shift in the eye direction and the way the mouth turns down come together to further express the emotion.

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Now in this last one, the look is very similar to the first drawing. But she seems to be making fun of something! Her eyes are wider, while the one on the right has a squint to it. And the mouth really seals the look with the way the lips form into a crease at the side.

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Portrait art can say so much! Why limit yourself to only happy faces when there are endless stories to be told with different facial expressions. I highly recommend the book “Making Comics”, even if you are just looking to add depth to your art. When you want to tell a story with the pieces you make, expression is key!