- Lesson details
In this video lesson master artist, Glenn Vilppu will teach you how to build upon your knowledge of the structure of the head in order to capture facial expressions to bring your drawings and paintings to life. Glenn will walk you through an approach to deal with this complex and challenging subject that you can apply to your own work.
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In this video lesson, master artist Glenn Vilppu will teach you how to build upon
your knowledge of the structure of the head in order to capture facial expressions
to bring your drawings and paintings to life. Glenn will walk you through an
approach to deal with this complex and challenging subject that you can apply
to your own work, either working from a model or completely from imagination.
Drawing expressions is very different from just sitting there and having a model
posing for 25 minutes or an hour. And you approach it very differently. First of all,
if you're working with a model, a model can hold an expression for a very short
time - 2 minutes at the most. After that, it goes dead and it's very painful. So
generally, what I do in a classroom situation is have the model take a pose, they hold the
expression for as long as they can, usually 1-2 minutes, and they maintain the pose
and we carry on the drawing for another 3 minutes. So it's usually just a 5-minute
pose, max. If you're out in the wild – sitting in a restaurant or the airport
and you're trying to capture expressions – of course they're not posing for you, so
you, essentially, are drawing from imagination. So you really need to be
able to very quickly indicate the expression. I'll give you a little basic procedure of the
way I go about it. It works pretty good. First thing I do is... you have to keep in
mind: what I'm starting out with is not drawing a head; it is just creating a
sphere to hang the eyes on and putting it down. For instance, notice that even
if I put an eye here, the far eye is smaller. This is purely animation. The idea is you
start with something to hang the eyes on. So I'm just coming through. Again, I'm not
cartooning, but you do need to exaggerate. You need to push the contrast to make it
as clear as you can. The biggest difficulty most people have, and even in books I've
seen on drawing expressions – they get overly wrapped up in all of the detail of
reality. You have to be able to indicate the expression quickly, without a lot of
detail involved, although I tend to be a fairly realistic draftsman. So, to begin
with, focus first on the eyes. Actually, generally, you begin with just the eyebrow.
I'm creating, first, the simple action of the eyebrow. That'll vary, of course, with
the gesture that you're talking about. So now, from there, I'll come in. And like
a regular drawing, I think of the eyeball and then drawing the eyelids over it.
So I'm visualizing the eyeball, and then I'll come in and draw the
eyelid. And thinking the eye is on the opposite side, smaller.
Now, at this point, we've got the eyes. Expressions aren't with just
the eyes; it's a combination of points that we look at. Nose, mouth, particularly
the eyes and the mouth. The nose, that's the individual you're dealing with. But we
focus on eyes and mouth. Now, these expressions– and you create them. You
can actually apply them to animals or anything. I begin with them is starting
here. If you can – for instance I'll imagine, even, or just put a little bit
down here. Then I'll deal with the expression. Indicate maybe a little
bit of the nose. Come through. And then, here, you have to really push the action.
In other words, if I draw something like that, it's not really giving us very much
of an expression. And if the person was smiling, that's not enough. Just
that little bit. Maybe if you're doing a long pose and trying to be very
subtle, that little bit of a turn will give you an expression. What I try to do is
force the thing a bit more. So I'll pull through, build, come in. Then once
I've got that, I'll add more. If I have time, I can add hair, I can add shapes,
I can build that expression more. Now, what I have there – I'll show you a little
experiment here. Let's just take a point here. That's just something to hang the
eyeballs on. Through. Really push the shape. I'm going around the ball with
the eyelashes or eyebrow. Think of the ball of the eye.
Then, I'm doing a very simple indication: cheekbone, where the chin's going to be,
nose coming in, putting in a mouth. Now, I'm going to try a little experiment here.
At this point, I've created a bit of a frown. You look at the eyes and the mouth, you
can see the combination of two things there. Watch what happens. Expressions
are a matter of combinations. If I cover this up – you've already been looking at
the face. Watch how the eyes are going to actually change just by what I do with the
mouth. That little adjustment, making a smile, has actually changed the expression
in the eyes without me actually drawing them. This becomes a point here. You
can see as we go back and forth between that to that. The expressions in the eyes
change with the combination that you're working. As you're doing this, you have to
try to build. Add to it. Eventually you can come back in and deal with this.
Another point: when somebody is looking up or opening their mouth, you have to
push the expression. For eyes, for instance, if somebody's looking up. When you have
somebody looking up or a mouth open, what we have to do is force the point. In other
words, if somebody's head is looking up, you need to show some white below the
eyes so that we actually get – this is a bit cartoony, but if you actually look at
Renaissance points, this is exactly what they do: they push. In reality, this is
what happens. But when you're looking at the model, first of all, it's very difficult
to get the eyes going up like that and be able to hold it. But also, you need to add
to it. Your point is to get the expression across, not to copy what you're looking
at. We don't copy. Let's say we have the mouth open. You need to push this at
the same time. You need to come in and give us a dark that'll show us that the
mouth is open and also work with the lines that pull down. Right away, these are a
set of conventions that you're being able to take and show expression. Comic book
artists, realistically, and animation: you force the action to make it clear. Now,
from here, we're going to do some drawings from the model. I'm going to primarily work
with a pen. I use a pen a lot for doing expressions because it's immediate. It
also prevents you from getting fussy with your drawing.
OK, now let's take a pose here. Good. Now what I'm doing is starting out, capturing.
Notice he has very strong eyebrows, so that's becoming a point to begin with.
Push up. Focusing on the eyes. Now, I'm just indicating where the nose is and
going right away to the mouth. Slightly opened. Once I've got that, then I can
come in and indicate a little bit of the rest. Notice that the expression is
already achieved. If you're trying to capture characters, you can add a bit
more to the process. You'll notice it's very simplified, getting all of the little
subtleties of the gesture. OK, change. I'll even force it more. Come through.
Here I'm using the ear to help show the direction.
You get the head looking down. Going back, I need to – I sort of lost that. It was
a fleeting bit of expression there. So I'm pushing it a bit more.
His subtlety of looking up a little bit – I'm forcing that even more through
opening the mouth, pushing it a bit more.
Now, you can practice doing this by working with television. Stopping the motion. You'll
find that even operatic productions sometimes are more fruitful because
of the exaggerated expressions and attitudes. OK, change.
Notice that I start each drawing precisely the same way. Now,
in the real world, when you're out in the wild, drawing people... Here,
again, I'm going to push the expression, actually
drawing more of what I see that he's doing. In other words, what I
feel that he's doing. Notice I've turned stuff down a little bit. Started pulling across.
OK, let's try another one.
The ears I use to help place. And, like I said, I use a pen an awful lot because it
prevents me from being fussy. And I don't worry about the lines, whether you've got
a series of lines – even the ellipse that I put in for the eyes themselves. Now, from
that... push it. You can turn it into a smile or start to pull.
Now, I'm going to do that same expression, same angle. Because I see a fleeting play
of expressions in there that I want to get. So even as you're drawing, if you don't
necessarily capture the gesture or the expression that you intended to start
with, you've probably created an expression anyway. So as you start to build with the
drawings, you end up creating a catalog of expressions. So now I'm going to pull this;
I'm going to change slightly - now I'm going through. Slightly different. I'm still not
sure if I got what I wanted out of that, but we'll just go on to the next. OK,
change. OK, we've got a difference going. Up. All of these drawings I've
been doing have been only a minute or so; there's been nothing long about this.
Here, going through. Here's where, again, I push the openness of the mouth by
using the dark.
I was reading a text about a 1st Century B.C. Roman talking about how if you
wanted to be an artist or a mural painter, you had to be able to
capture the expression with just the flick of a brush. Somebody's eyebrows, mouth,
nose. So things have not changed at all. OK.
I'm pushing. See how I've exaggerated that whole wide-eyed look? You'll find that
sometimes it's pretty difficult to draw an expression without actually taking
the expression yourself.
In the animation industry, the artists have mirrors attached to their
drawing table so they can look at the expressions. Even if they're drawing
dogs or cats or ducks, they create the expressions themselves and draw them.
That's a pretty funny tongue I'm drawing here. You get the idea. Now I pull.
OK. Good. OK, now, same thing. There's a difference between studio pose and
reality. You end up having to remember, capture things spontaneously. Actually,
da Vinci talks about going out into the marketplace every day and drawing people
doing real things and capturing the real. That is incredibly more difficult, but it's
much more fun to try to capture what we see in reality. You'll notice that this is
really very quick, very spontaneous, and you don't worry about whether it's a good
drawing or not – you're just trying to capture something. Then you can build
on that later.
Notice that the lines that I'm putting down – I'm really just creating an impression.
Even the fact that the lines are so scattered. Like I say, it's an impression
of a thing that can then be refined later on. Not in the same drawing; but then
this becomes a reference. OK, change.
OK, change. Not a very successful one, but we'll try another one here. OK.
Now, often, just the turning of the cheek – if I pull the cheek out a little bit more –
that's the indication that the mouth has been pulled up. So it helps to show
expression just by the cheek itself.
Again, you can see where I'm forcing the eyes.
OK, I think that gives us a pretty good example of the approach we're taking
in doing expressions. And I think that's pretty much done.