Looked at closely, no two wrinkles are alike. They differ in shape, in length, in spacing, and in depth. If drawn in even rows, they look "off"; living form is never mechanically repetitive.
Wrinkles are clearest in areas of transition between light and dark (A). In lightest areas, wrinkles, unless they are very deep, will show up only faintly (B). In shadows, wrinkles, unless very deep, will fade into the general gloom (C).
A pen-and-ink version of the same face. In this medium, achieving soft transitions is more difficult. In a detailed rendering, cross-hatching is used to achieve the desired gradations— soft above, sharp below. In a simpler, more linear style, like that used in cartoons, a different approach is used. Wrinkles are indicated with a light or broken line, distinct from the heavier line used for the outline.
Two Things To Bear in Mind
The whole face does not participate equally in most expressions. The burden of getting the message across usually falls most heavily on the brow in combination with the eyes, and the mouth and its surroundings. These two locations are the areas of the greatest muscular development and so are capable of undergoing the greatest changes. They are also, not coinciden-tally, the parts of the face we always notice first and to which we respond the most strongly.
If you cover your nose, you will find that you will lose very little in terms of expression; cover your eyes, and you lose everything.
Since there are so many muscles of expression (from twenty to twenty-six, depending on which anatomy book you are using) examining them grouped by active area will simplify our task greatly. A certain number of muscles are excluded because they don't do much expression-wise, are hardly ever used, or both.
This leaves us with a total of twelve key muscles, five of which act on the eye/brow area and seven of which act on the mouth. Even here we can simplify things somewhat. The muscles can be grouped according to what they do: for example, most of the muscles that surround the mouth can be placed into the category of downward puller, upward puller, or outward puller.
2. How We Know What We Know: Neutral Positions
Our knowledge of the features in repose make recognition of change possible. We know how the eyebrows tend to sit, what the corners of the mouth look like, how wide open the eyes usually are. These elements are constant enough from face to face that we can normally recognize a changed face. This is true whether we are familiar with the person's face at rest or not.
Wrinkles are important, but not absolutely essential, in helping our perception out. It's the same principle of unconscious familiarity we use to pick out any change in our environment. We don't think about where the furniture is in our parent's house, for example, but if something is moved while we're away, when we return it's the first thing we notice. We get habituated to the features at rest and therefore notice any changes right away.
Being consciously familiar with the at-ease look of the features can also help us avoid unintentionally creating an expression when none is desired. This is often a problem in portraiture, as indicated by John Singer Sargent: "a portrait is a picture of the head with something wrong with the mouth." Given the suggestiveness of the mouth, that "something" is often the existence of an accidental scowl or grimace or sneer or a similarly unwelcome expression. Not the thing to please a touchy client!
WHERE EXPRESSIONS GET EXPRESSED
The areas enclosed in the two boxes are where we look when we want to determine someone's mood. They're the attachment place for most of the facial muscles and the location of most of the surface changes. Occasionally we get crucial information from elsewhere—the cheek, for instance, helps read the smile—but most often the rest of the face is a "frame" for the eyes/brow and mouth.
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