Lips appear narrow as well as tight, turned inward and pressed together, with lower lip tucked under upper— action often part of weeping. Frontalis is not active in full-blown crying; forehead above brow is smooth. Middle branch of sneering muscle is active; crease is deep alongside nose.
A. Action of corrugator.
B. Action of orbicularis oculi.
C. Action of levator labii superioris.
D. Action of risorius/platysma.
E. Action of mentalis.
Sadness: Utterly Miserable
The main element in our perception of faces as utterly miserable is the look of the mouth, stretched and distorted by the same actions, slightly less marked, that we see in crying faces. This, along with the grief-stricken brow and sad-looking eyes, gives the face a look of sadness that may well be on the verge of tears.
When I say "sad-looking" eyes, it's because when the eyes are open, as they are not in weeping faces, the shape of the eye opening itself becomes part of the sadness pattern.
When the eyes are open in sadness, their shape is altered both above and below. Above, the upper lid is partly covered by a new skin fold, dragged across the lid by the movement of the brows. As with the kinked brows, the fold moves in an angular direction. The sadness code is based on this angularity; a feeling of "upward toward the middle" is the general theme of the upper face. Often the fold pushes down a bit on the eye, closing the eye slightly making the eye look less alert, more withdrawn. (This is an important distinction between sadness and fear, where the eye is wide.)
The lower lid covers more of the eye than usual as well. The orbicularis oc-uli is partly contracted, mostly in its lower portion, and this creates the bag under the eye and the lifted, straightened look of the lid.
Nearly every sad mouth, be it on the face of someone broken down in tears or on the face of someone in a quiet state of melancholy, bears signs of the action of the mentalis. Every sad mouth has an upper lip reshaped by either the middle or outer branch of the sneering muscle. Many sad faces also show signs of the partner of the mentalis, triangularis. But only on the face of someone crying or just about to cry will the risorius/platysma also be contracted. Risorius is the muscle of the worst states of distress, and as our mood lightens, its actions tails off, then disappears.
In less tormented faces of sadness, the risorius disappears, leaving just mentalis and triangularis to act on the lower lip, the sneering muscle to act on the upper.
The Tight-Lipped Face of Restraint_
Embedded in our collective consciousness is the memory of a scene from some movie in which a crusty-but-kind-hearted British officer turns to his young lieutenant who's on the verge of being terribly upset and says, "Keep a stiff upper lip, old chap." This is another one of those stock phrases that seem to hit on an anatomical truth. The upper lip, as we have seen, can indeed betray our emotions, in a way we may not wish to be betrayed. Is it in fact possible, by an exercise of muscular restraint, to prevent the inexorable squaring of the upper lip that precedes crying, in other words, to keep a stiff upper lip?
Yes and no. The act of fighting an innate facial movement is often equally if not more expressive than the unrestricted movement itself. In fact, you cannot "keep a stiff upper lip" if the emotion you are feeling is strong enough—the instinctive facial movements are too strong to suppress.
When we attempt to stifle a sob, the result is a tremendously strained, tight-lipped look—a pressing inward to combat the pull upward and outward. In life, a mouth suspended in such a muscular tug-of-war would look very unstable, with trembling as particular muscles tightened or loosened.
Crying, however painful, is usually brief; however, sadness can go on and on. In fact, the less intense the sad look, the more we take it to be a moment in an ongoing mood.
As I mentioned, sadness may be the emotion of nuance; it seems to take the least facial activity to suggest. Though the mouth alone cannot unambiguously suggest sadness, the eyes and brow acting alone can, a fact much used by artists.
The brows, in fact, are the key to the sadness code. All sad faces have eyebrows with the tell-tale upward twist in the inner end, and in many faces, if you cover the brows, the message of the rest of the face becomes ambiguous.
So powerful is the effect of the brows that we see the other features differently when the brows are active. What this means for the artist is that if we take great care with the rendering of the eyebrows and forehead, we can suggest sadness with the slightest of clues in the rest of the face. The least creasing under the mouth will be taken as the signs of a pout; the least alteration in the line of the upper lid, or downward cast to the eye as a whole, will be seen as a look of utter melancholy.
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