If you were to look in through the window of my shedio* at various times during the last few years when I’m at work, you might seriously wonder what I’m doing in there.
I’m only ever there alone but you may catch me smiling, frowning, grinning inanely, looking bewildered, sad, angry, surprised… even scared. No, I don’t have an imaginary friend and as far as I’m aware the shedio is not haunted. Nor am I listening to some annoying radio show inducing the pulling of faces, or reacting to the sight of a large spider I’d inadvertently squashed under my paint box. I just find there’s only one way to draw a good facial expression that conveys an emotion, and that is to try it out myself.
Something I haven’t written about on here before is that in the last few years I’ve been illustrating children’s picture books. The subject could easily inspire a whole blog of its own so I won’t go on about that specifically, but nailing a facial expression is something that applies to so much art and illustration generally anyway. One interesting thing about working in children’s books is that animals are frequently used as main characters, so you need to transfer all those human facial nuances to an imagined creature as well, and really think about the common elements you can use. Body language is a key thing too, but the face is where the feeling or temperament you want to express is somehow crystalised. In the books I’ve illustrated there is a strong focus on conveying mood and emotion. I’ve only one dimension and a paintbrush stroke to work with, but it’s the curve of a mouth and the positioning of an eyebrow that becomes all important and requires a surprising amount of consideration (plus a bit of personal modelling).
Anyway I was just revisiting some paintings of this recent character and as I looked at his face I realised I had pulled every one of those expressions alone in my shedio. It must have been ridiculous, and maybe rather worrying, to witness. Aside from the fact that I’m not a hairy bear (thanks to some strategic epilation) I probably looked pretty much like him just prior to drawing all these poses.
all images copyright C
* shedio: shed converted into studio