About This Book

Curiously, there have been very few books on the subject of facial expression for the artist. To my knowledge, the last one was Sir Charles Bell's Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting, published in 1806, and it wasn't a terribly good book in the first place. Many more recent drawing books have included short sections on expression without shedding much useful light on the matter. In fact, artists familiar with such sources have generally had the good sense to prefer their own judgment and observations.

A great amount of useful information about facial expressions has recently been published by psychologists. Their research, especially that of Paul Ek-man, the leading authority on the subject, has been a major source of this book. This book also borrows heavily from the work of modern photojournal-ists, whose ability to be at the right place at this right time and to point cameras in the faces of people no matter what the circumstances, have done artists a great service.

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This is not primarily a book on how to draw the head—there are plenty of books that do that. It's a book about depicting the actions of the head. It focuses on the facial expression of emotion, but other actions are illustrated, such as the sideways gaze, the open mouth, the raised brow, which add to the liveliness of a face.

The gist of this book is in the illustrations and their accompanying captions. Anyone who reads through the picture pages will have covered most of the material. The text itself offers slightly more detail and discussions of certain theoretical issues.

Part of this book is devoted to the anatomical basis of the expressions. The study of anatomy, it has been said, increases the sensitivity of the artist's eyes, making forms clearer because they are more clearly understood. The expressions offer the eye a potentially confusing landscape of wrinkles, bumps, and altered features. Under-

Eye Expressions
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Facial Expression Artists

Facial expression for artists. Few reference books have included credible images of facial expression. These excerpts from the Diderot Encyclopedia, illustrating (clockwise) reverence (A), discomfort (B), sadness-(C), and anger (D), strike the modern eye as excessive and unnatural.

Facial Expressions

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Happiness standing what creates these forms makes it easier to see the expressions, and it also makes it easier to see the simple underlying pattern that is the true basis of our recognition of a particular expression. Nearly every facial muscle, for example, has a characteristic "signature wrinkle." Once recognized, this characteristic will be seen on nearly every face when the same expression is in progress.

We discuss first the deep bony forms, then the muscles that lie atop them. In the final section, the facial expressions are described in detail, referring back to the individual muscles involved in each expression. The reader is encouraged to regularly examine what's discussed on his or her own face. This book is really meant to become a sort of guided tour to the face.

Anatomy and Drawing by Victor Per-ord includes this poge on facial expression. If you cover the captions, very few of the expressions are easily recognizable. Expressions like surprise, laughter, and anger—when genuine—should need no label. Expressions of doubt, supplication, reverie, and disapproval, however, are vague emotional states that have no distinct identity on the face.

How the Drawings Were Made

My drawings were primarily done from my own photographs. In section 3, however, a number of the drawings of the expressions are based on photographs from newspapers and magazines. My decision to use newspaper photographs was based on an important point: some expressions do not seem to be convincing unless they are completely spontaneous.

At first, I had taken photographs of actors portraying various expressions, but many of these were found to be unconvincing. When I showed people newspaper photographs of angry, frightened, or surprised people who had been in situations where these feelings naturally arose, I got a much stronger response. This was true even though I made sure to remove any clues as to what else was going on in the picture. Since my methods were hardly scientific, it is difficult to draw conclusions from the results. But it seems clear that we can usually tell the difference between a spontaneous expression and a posed one. The artist is well advised to get a second, or even a third, opinion if working with a face where the expression is at all doubtful.

In the end, about half of the expression drawings were based on photographs from spontaneous situations. I

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The inquiring camera. Hundreds of photos were taken in preparation for this book. The best were used as the basis for many of my expression drawings. Sessions with actors proved useful, but many expressions were judged unusable because they appeared too extreme (A) or too ambiguous (B). Besides working with actors individually, unscripted scenarios were staged in an attempt to elicit a particular expression. Several actors ganged up on the figure in the dark shirt (C), but the expression of fear did not materialize. At (D), however, it did.

Facial Expressions FearFacial Expressions Serious PersonExtreme Facial Expressions

There were many times when I needed extra detail on a part of a face I was drawing, and taking a closeup of my own face proved another helpful way to do research.

only used photographs that I had shown to a large number of people and for which I had gotten similar responses. Many of those photos had serious technical shortcomings in terms of clarity or lighting. I often studied my own features in similar positions to resolve particular details. I made a careful sketch from my own face, and then I transposed it to the face of someone else.

Why the Focus on the Face

Posture and gesture (body language) can have a decisive effect on the expression of emotion. The back view of an individual slumped over with head in hands vividly shows that person's feelings. In fact, some emotions are inseparable from particular gestures: anger with a lunging forward of the body, sorrow with slumping, horror with an instinctive raising of hands to the face.

The face alone, however, can communicate the full range of human emotion. By just focusing on the face, we can learn many valuable and important things that are no less true because they are also part of a larger context. Think of the face as being like the key solo instrument in a symphony orchestra. In a concerto, the soloist can carry the melody, as can the full orchestra along with the soloist. Likewise, the face can act alone to communicate sadness, fear, or pleasure, but more often it's message is reinforced by the action of the rest of the body.

The Influence of Context

Context, or setting, will also influence the emotional message we get from someone in a picture. If what's going on in picture leads us to expect to see a particular expression, we will seize on the least clue to convince ourselves that that expression exists. For example, imagine a portrait of a man with his eyes slightly widened. We might draw any number of conclusions about his emotional state (including the conclusion that he's not feeling anything in particular). If this same man, however, is painted throwing open the bedroom door on his wife and her lover, we're certain to see a great deal more in exactly the same expression. We're likely to see shock, anger or both, but we will certainly see something pronounced based on what we expect to see.

The faces most susceptible to being influenced by context are those with ambiguous or very slight expressions. The less we see going on in a face, the easier it is to read our own message onto it. Our perception of an up roarious laugh or a furious shout, however, is little influenced by the surroundings.

A Note about the Muscles

If you want to know which facial muscles do what, you won't find a clear answer in the standard reference books, like Gray's Anatomy. Five hun

Our perception of facial expression is enormously influenced by what we ex-pect to see. A caption can produce an opposing context: a sob can become a smile. The faces most susceptible to being influenced by context are those with ambiguous or very slight expressions.

This is a drawing of a woman who has just learned of the death of a close relative.

This is a drawing of a woman at a reunion with a relative she'd thought dead for many years. With this caption, we see her face very differently than with the more tragic caption (in fact, this last caption is true).

This is a drawing of a woman who has just learned of the death of a close relative.

Drawing Face Expressions Women

This is a drawing of a woman at a reunion with a relative she'd thought dead for many years. With this caption, we see her face very differently than with the more tragic caption (in fact, this last caption is true).

Facial Expressions Paintings

dred years after Leonardo's pioneering studies, the subject of facial expression still hasn't been entirely sorted out by the experts. Though psychologists have been busy updating our knowledge of the face, anatomists have not. There are major disagreements in the anatomy books on a number of key issues. For example, no two books seem to agree on exactly which muscles make us smile. While some books insist that the risorius (Latin for "to laugh") is crucial to the action, others assert that nothing could be further from the truth. Some even dispute the very existence of the muscle, saying that it's a no-show on many faces, and of little importance on others, and it's really another muscle—the platystna—that does the work.

Several other facial muscles are in a similar position of having their very existence in doubt. One doesn't encounter this problem studying the anatomy of the arm or the calf. The fact is that the muscles of the face are so minute, so confusingly deployed under the surface, and of so little interest to researchers (not being crucial in disease, sports, or disabling injuries) that some fundamental questions are still unresolved.

This book represents an attempt to compromise between being too vague and being too certain and specific. The drawings show the surface appearances as they are; but exactly what's going on under the surface is still something of a mystery. Few artists will find this a serious handicap; still, it would be nice to know what really makes us smile.

How to Use this Book_

This book is meant to be read with a mirror close at hand. Many, if not all of the expressions can be fairly easily posed, though some individuals are more gifted at this than others. The position of the eyebrows in sadness, for example, is very easy for some people to duplicate; others can only do it if they really are sad. But everyone is able to produce the frown or the sneer. It's even more useful to get someone else to sneer or frown and to study that face carefully. It's also helpful to use your sense of touch to trace the three-

dimensional forms on your face when posing the expressions.

Every opportunity should be taken to observe these expressions from life. Front-row seats at the theater are perfect spots for expression research, and playgrounds can also be great places— children don't tend to hold back when they're angry or distressed or mind being looked at. I also recommend lingering at bus stations during rush hours to watch for commuters late for their buses and spying on tables full of tipsy people in cafés. If you discreetly observe travelers saying their goodbyes at airports, you may well spot the charming expression in which sadness mingles with a smile. And unexpected opportunities arise: I can still vividly bring to mind the distressed look on the brow of the poor woman I saw once being arrested for shoplifting. Just remember—it's not polite to stare! (though dark glasses can help).

Movies are useful, and videotapes particularly so, as an interesting face can be watched more than once or even frozen as a still frame. The daily papers and news magazines are also scanned a bit differently when you're indulging your curiosity about the face—a clip file can be an important tool.

Finally, have fun with a pencil. The easiest way to begin trying out these expressions is by drawing simple, cartoon-like faces like those in the appendix. Even such rudimentary faces can be quite expressive. Next, you might want to take an existing surplus drawing or painting of a face and experiment with the effects of various alterations in the look of the eyebrows or the mouth. Copying pictures of expressions—either photographs or works of art—is also useful.

Ultimately, the value of this book may be in hinting just how a slight movement here or there can add life to a portrait and help bring a personality to life. It may also help someone trying to remove an unwanted expression. My fondest hope, however, is that this book will prove helpful to those artists who have ambitions, beyond those of most of their contemporaries, to create works of art in which the human drama—and the "world of visual appearances"—plays a central role.

Hopeful Facial Expressions Pictures

If at first you don't succeed, try a slightly different version. Merely by slightly changing the position of the eyebrows, Courbet gave the top portrait of Jo, Whistler's mistress, an undertone the one above completely lacks. The slightly bent eyebrow (and to a lesser extent, the look of the eye and brow) suggests sadness or worry. Instead of a pretty young woman admiring herself in a mirror, we see the painting as a meditation on the fleeting nature of beauty, or simply a study of melancholy. Many artists might be curious about the effect such a change might have on their painting, but few would be curious enough to paint a complete alternate version.

If at first you don't succeed, try a slightly different version. Merely by slightly changing the position of the eyebrows, Courbet gave the top portrait of Jo, Whistler's mistress, an undertone the one above completely lacks. The slightly bent eyebrow (and to a lesser extent, the look of the eye and brow) suggests sadness or worry. Instead of a pretty young woman admiring herself in a mirror, we see the painting as a meditation on the fleeting nature of beauty, or simply a study of melancholy. Many artists might be curious about the effect such a change might have on their painting, but few would be curious enough to paint a complete alternate version.

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GOING BENEATH THE SURFACE

Facial expressions come and go.

They pass over the surface of the face like light ripples on the surface of a pond. The deep structures beneath, like the deep waters on the bottom of a pond, remain unperturbed. But the bony forms of the head make the presence of the facial expressions felt on the surface indirectly; the teeth give form to the smile; the frontal bone gives form to the frown.

A major theme of this book is that knowledge enhances seeing. Once you know what the hidden parts of the face look like, you can see—and draw— their effects on the surface more clearly. So we study the deep forms, and the forms of the head as a whole, before we look at the localized, superficial expressions.

Avoiding the Beginner's Error

There is another, equally important reason to start out with the head as a whole—it will prevent the classic beginner's error: starting with the features first and then adding on the head.

Because of this drawing order, beginners almost always draw the features as far too big, the head holding them as far too small.

There is a universal tendency to misjudge the face in this way, probably because we learn early on that faces and facial expressions are pretty good indicators of whether we can expect to be stroked or scolded. Reward and punishment being such important things in life, we fall into the habit of focusing on the features of those around us. So when we draw or paint a head, we naturally tend to zero in on the part that interests us the most: the face.

Beginners are also under the impression that a likeness depends very much on getting the features exactly right and very little on the rest of the head. So the features are drawn as gigantic, because they loom gigantically in the beginner's mind. The way we recognize someone is actually based on overall appearance—the clues that make us recognizable from a distance or as a vague figure in a group photo. It's a pattern that includes hair and head shape and general proportions. No matter how perfectly the eye is drawn, for example, if the surroundings aren't right, the head won't look right.

The cure for these problems is simple—start with the bigger forms, then work down to the smaller. We must work very hard at pinning down that big pattern first. When the time comes to work on the details, we look at them in relation to their surroundings; they will shrink in size accordingly. One of my drawing teachers used to say that "in relation to" is the most important phrase in drawing. Nowhere is it more important than when drawing the head.

Drawing The Head

First things first. Features— and any expression they reveal—are the last things developed in a drawing of the head. The most difficult and important stage is actually the first, defining the overall shape of the head. In the second stage the head is broken down into lit and shadowed planes, building the sense of three dimensions. Finally, the features are rendered—a much easier job if the first two stages are done right.

Female Facial Planes

A simple model for the head, the combination of a slightly rounded box and a smaller wedge, can be easily visualized from a variety of positions. The box form is like a cube with a bit added on; the wedge is a streamlined version of the skeletal ¡aw.

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Responses

  • petra
    What are the muscles involved in frighten?
    5 years ago
  • pearl
    How the study of anatomy has influenced artists?
    4 years ago

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