Faces showing emotions

Drawing Facial Expressions

Take a look at this identification parade. These are symbols of the six basic human facial expressions: Sadness, Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, Surprise.

Coloured cartoons of face expressions
Colour Adds Oomph to Facial Expressions

Expression lines

Of course, colour adds extra feeling and helps to identify the emotions. Without it you can see below that each face contains only the features that most express the emotion it represents. Or rather, that I feel most express it.

Cartoon faces with expressions
We humans show what mood we’re in with six basic expressions

If you don’t agree with my doodles, good. That means you will reach for a bit of paper, or your tablet or phone and start drawing faces and expressions yourself.

If you don’t think you can draw, bear in mind that there are two kinds of drawing. You only need to learn one of them. You have been able to do symbol drawing ever since you could hold a crayon.

The art of drawing facial expressions is very like a procedure that one of the earliest cartoonists, Rodolphe Topffer evolved a century and a half ago. Topffer maintained that to draw emotions, you do not need to spend years of slavish copying from models and marble busts, as art students did in those days.

When you come to think of it, drawing a posed subject is the last thing you should do if you want to learn how to draw emotions. Even the word, e-motion, implies movement.

Before news photography and freeze-frame video were invented, images of people in the grip of genuine emotion were hard to come by, even if you went out in the street and sketched from life. How did artists find the expressions for those highly dramatic scenes they so often had to paint? You could act them in the mirror or sketch in the theatre, but the results could only be what they were. Theatrical.

All but the most resourceful and perceptive artists relied on few and all too often inaccurate pattern books, or on imitating each other’s work. The resulting emotional expressions were all too often stagey and unconvincing.

Steps to drawing facial expressions the easy way.

Published by

Valerie Beeby

We used to say 'Seeing is believing'. Now it's more like 'Believing is seeing'. We see what we expect to see. Look again and who knows. Does it really match what's actually there? ...I've always been fascinated by how our minds work. As a writer and artist, I'm particularly interested in new research into how we perceive this extraordinary world we live in, where things are not always what they seem.

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