We don't need a lot of detail to read the expression in the gunman's eyes. They seem to glow out of the television fuzz, making even more sinister a sinister scene. Instinctively, we are reading the negative shapes of the eye whites as the signal of menace. The high contrast of the whites to the dark center of the eyes, and to the dark eyelid margin, allows the expressive shapes to communicate even at a distance.
SHAPE OF EYE WHITE
SHAPE ALONE INDICATES WIDENED EYE, LOWERED BROW, STRAIGHT LOWER LID.
The Face of Rage
In the most characteristic face of rage, three actions combine: (1) the brow lowers; (2) the upper eyelid opens wide, and the lower lid is tense; (3) the mouth is open and shouting, with a snarl in the upper lip and taut edges throughout
The fact that the brows lower in anger must be one of the most commonly known facts about facial expression. According to Darwin, the lowering of the brow is a sure sign of an encounter with some difficulty. Darwin speculates that the gesture goes back to our primitive forebears, who used it to reduce glare when they were having difficulty seeing, and by extension this expression became a habit when encountering an obstruction of any sort.
Lowering the brow alone will not make the face look very angry. The unadorned frown can mean a lot of things: someone's confused (I see this on the faces of students when I haven't explained something very well), thoughtful, or angry. To create the face of anger, the lowered brow must be accompanied by a widened eye. The combination of the two elements creates the glare, and the glare is the key to how angry anger looks.
The glare widens the eye in spite of the upper lid being pushed down at the same time by the corrugated brow. When we look at an angry face, we unconsciously allow for the extra effort involved in raising the upper lid in anger. If iris is just barely or not quite covered by upper lid, we spot the glare
An occasional feature of the angry eye, a taut, straightened lowered lid, seems to intensify and harden the gaze even further. When all three factors are at work—widened eye, lowered brow, tightened lower lid—we get the most malevolent effect.
What happens with the mouth in anger is a bit more complicated and a bit more variable. Complicated possibilities for lip positions abound. In spite of these variations, there are certain overall things about the mouths appearance that will always be true:
1. The upper lip is lifted in a sneer. Dogs do it, cats do it, is there any reason why people shouldn't do it? The snarl of a dog or cat is equivalent to a police officer patting his or her billy club. By exposing their sharp teeth in the corner of the upper jaw, they're warning a potential opponent, "You see these?" Our angry sneer accomplishes much the same thing. Human canine teeth are passably sharp, and a strong action of the levator labii superioris exposes them to any and all interested parties. Open angry mouths are always lifted in a strong sneer.
In crying there's a sneer element too, but it's not the same sort of sneer. The cry involves the outer branch of the three-branched levator labii superioris, and that branch has a weaker action, one that avoids the nose and tends not to expose the upper teeth. The angry snarl uses the middle branch and some fibers of the inner branch, a much stronger pull that drags the upper lip straight up and back into the face and bares the upper teeth. Often the lift will be strongest directly above the canine teeth.
2. The lips are tightened, stretched, or both. The muscle of the lips, orbicularis oris, tightens the edge of the lips in loud speaking. Angry shouting is no different, and the lip muscle adds its action to the other actions present. You can demonstrate on yourself what happens if you sneer, then tighten the lips—the overall shape is maintained, but the red part of the lips shrinks, and the margins become much straighten When the action of the orbicularis oris is strong, the lips will curl under themselves and become thinner.
The lower lip is often stretched horizontally by the risorius/platysma. The risorius/platysma and the orbicularis oris do not seem to contract strongly at the same time; if the action of one is intense, the contraction of the other is weak. When the risorius/platysma is weaker, the lower lip dips downward;
when it's stronger, the lower lip is straight across.
3. The lower teeth are exposed. Often, the lower lip depressor pulls the lip down, showing the lower teeth. This is another action linked to speech. If the lip depressor isn't showing the lower teeth, risorius/platysma will be.
4. The corner of the mouth stays low. In a smile, the corner of the mouth is pulled sideways, back into the face, and upward; in the angry mouth, no matter which version, the corner is pulled sideways, and somewhat back, but not at all up. The corner stays low, around the level of the lower row of teeth.
5. The overall shape is square, with lots of teeth.
Keep in mind that none of these actions, by themselves, will clearly suggest anger. In combination with the glaring eyes and brow, the open, tensed mouth, with its strong sense of a snarl, presents us with what we recognize as the face of rage.
Open Mouth, Clenched Teeth
Since anger is so closely related to physical effort, there are times when the anger pattern in the upper face is combined with the clenched-teeth pattern in the lower. There are only two situations in which clenched teeth appear in expressions: physical pain and strenuous physical effort (the two are closely related). Gnashing the teeth together seems to release tension.
Showing the teeth when the jaw is shut takes a fair amount of muscular effort (and it is also uncomfortable). If you stand in front of a mirror and try it, you'll discover that you automatically
enlist the sneering muscle to bare the upper teeth—there's no other way to do it. And you'll find there are only two ways to show the lower teeth—using the lower lip depressor to pull the lower lip down or using risorius/ platysma to stretch it sideways—or some combination of the two. The clenched-teeth look combines with the glare when someone is enraged and engaged in a physical struggle.
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