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When you begin to draw portraits, you may find after a few minutes of posing that people's faces tend to adopt a fixed stare and often a rather bored expression. This is why, in previous times, professional portrait painters used to employ musicians to keep their sitters amused, so that they would not find the business too tedious. Some painters rely on their talent for interesting conversation to keep their sitters lively, but you can see how that might be difficult. So, one thing you can do is to get your sitters to try out various expressions, in order to keep them awake and enjoying the experience of sitting for their portrait.

Facial expressions may be a bit difficult to keep for any length of time, but it is worth trying to get a few down on paper for your own enjoyment, and in order to learn from them.

Here I show a range of basic expressions:

The first is laughter or happiness - some people seem to find it quite easy to keep a big smile on their face long enough for you to draw it.

The next is a smile or a look of serenity which might be what Leonardo da Vinci was trying to capture in the portrait of the Mona Lisa.

The next is a smile or a look of serenity which might be what Leonardo da Vinci was trying to capture in the portrait of the Mona Lisa.

The next is either angry or grumpy, depending a bit on the intensity.

The next is either angry or grumpy, depending a bit on the intensity.

This one should be easy enough - just bore your sitter by telling him feeble jokes or relating in detail how hard it was to park your car.

This one is surprise, although it could become that far-away expression you sometimes fall into when contemplating your next holiday, for instance.

This one should be easy enough - just bore your sitter by telling him feeble jokes or relating in detail how hard it was to park your car.

This one is surprise, although it could become that far-away expression you sometimes fall into when contemplating your next holiday, for instance.

And the last one is a seductive sort of look that works best of course if you look like a filmstar of the more beautiful kind.

Do try out some more, depending on your sitter's acting ability.

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