The Line Between The Lips In Action

If the mouth is neutral, it will not have LBL with abrupt changes in direction or extending well past end of lips. The ups and down of the LBL in the relaxed mouth are gradual. Only when pulled by muscle contraction will the LBL show a sudden break in direction (A). The new direction may be up, as here, or down. Usually the same action will pull the LBL well beyond the visible end of the lips. Normally the LBL ends just beyond the end of the lips. An LBL end higher than its center is a definition of the smile. (B) A smile begins as soon as either or both of the LBL ends move above the LBL center. (The green line makes this relationship clear.) A relaxed mouth will never have the LBL end higher than the middle. LBL with no kinks and with a thinned upper lip occurs when the mouth is compressed or stretched. But some LBLs have hardly any kink to begin with. The combination of thinned upper lip with straight LBL makes this mouth look tight-lipped (C). Another version of this is (D); here, not stretch, but the upthrust of the lower lip has eradicated the usual two-peaks-and-a-dip pattern and hidden much of the upper lip.

There are some general rules for what makes the line between the lips (LBL) appear neutral. Ordinarily, a mouth reshaped by muscle contraction will show one or more of the changes listed. If you don't want the mouth you draw or paint to have an expression, these are things to avoid. If you do want an expression in the closed mouth, it may well include one of these elements. Bear in mind that the expression in the mouth can be quite subtle; if the expression in the eyes is strong enough, we tend to perceive the mouth as sympathetic.

The Corner of the Mouth

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