The Seven Faces of Fear


One way or another, fear is part of almost any dramatic scene. If you are painting or drawing characters in action, whether for cartoons, anime, fine art or whatever, you need to know the elements of drawing a frightened face.

There are many degrees of fear, from a vague sensation of worry to stark terror. Oh well. If you need a few guidelines for drawing a frightened face, we might as well jump in at the deep end. Let’s start with drawing seven faces of fear, escalating from first alarm to terror, reduced to their elements in cartoon form.

What are the reasons for the symptoms of fear that can show in somebody’s face?

Fear produces the famous Fight or Flight syndrome.

Let’s say you are walking along, humming a happy tune…


…when suddenly …

…a terrifying monster leaps out at you.


1. Help! An instant shot of adrenalin sets you out on the seven faces of fear. The blood is pulled in to your vital internal organs and your face goes white.


2. Your heart pounds. Your jaw drops open. This allows you to breathe in and circulate extra oxygen to feed your muscles for action.


3. Your eyebrows rise, ready for…


4. …the most important sign of serious fear in your face. Your eyes open wide and staring. You show the whites of your eyes. The white is revealed above the iris. Your optics need to take in the best possible view of approaching danger.

When drawing a frightened face, notice the tiny pupils. Our pupils contract when we look at something we hate or fear.


5. All muscles are now tensed up ready to spring or run. It is doubtful if this really includes the follicles of your hair. You need a bit more fur than a human being in order to puff it up to look bigger than you really are. However, if you happen to be a cartoon, at this point your hair is liable to stand on end .Emoticon. Afraid..


6. You may already be cold, but you start to sweat. This cools you down some more, and drives yet more blood from your skin to where it is needed.

Adrenalin has meanwhile increased the ability of your blood to clot.

These two primitive reactions mean possible surface wounds could produce a less gory outcome.


7. Finally, as if all that were not enough, you start to shake. In fact you quake with fear.

The shivery lines on the chin are a graphic pun. Do they symbolise shivering on a static page? Are they prize goose pimples? Who knows. Either way, sorry, I have to stop now. I am starting to feel too sorry for poor Fred the Frightened Face!

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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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