× HOME ART LESSONS REVIEWS PRICING STUDENTS GALLERY LIFE DRAWING MASTERS NEWS FAQ MEMBERS AREA

How to Portray Emotions

This is your unique chance to get unlimited personal tutoring at a tiny fraction of what it really costs.
Don't miss your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Enroll in the Life Drawing Academy now!


Online Course

Lifetime membership
One-time payment: $297 USD

ENROLL NOW

Correspondence Course + Online Course

Lifetime membership
One-time payment: $997 USD

ENROLL NOW

How to Portray Emotions

By Alexander Ryzhkin

In this video lesson, we will talk about How to Portray Emotions. Big volumes of the head are shaped by the skull bones. In this video, you will discover how facial muscles influence the appearance of a face and emotions on it.

How to Portray Emotions

To begin with, we will roughly mark the outlines of a skull. This is a very stylized sketch with exaggerated facial mass. Here, we have three thirds of the face, a chin and mass of a forehead. Facial features are also depicted very schematically—the mouth, eye sockets, and the nose area.

Let's begin. The first muscle that plays emotions on a human face is located on the forehead. It has two flat portions and connects to the skin in the brow ridges area. When contracted, this muscle lifts the eyebrows up. This movement can imply several emotions. For example, when eyebrows are even slightly raised, it may indicate surprise or wonderment. Here, we can see this muscle in action on a model. Raised eyebrows may also mean a question.

These forehead muscles originate at the back side of the head and go all the way around the roof of the skull. That is why, when these muscles contract, they also move the hairstyle somewhat as well. The forehead muscle can also pull along an ear very slightly.

There are also two small muscles at the medial edges of the eyebrows. They can lift the eyebrows' corners up. This muscle inserts to the round muscle of an eye, which consists of two parts—the upper and lower one. The upper and lower parts of this round muscle of the eye can contract individually because they are separated at the corner of the eye. This round muscle also has separate portions inside the eyelids, and these portions serve to move the eyelids. When the whole round muscle of an eye is contracted, it closes an eye firmly. Here's how it works on a model's face. However, when only the eyelid portions are contracted, the eyelids blink or close gently. The upper eyelid portion is closing the upper eyelid. The lower eyelid portion of this muscle is pulling the lower eyelid up slightly. The upper portion of the round muscle of the eye can also pull the eyebrows down.

Coming back to a small muscle at the medial corner of the eyebrow, it connects to the round muscle of the eye and, when contracted, pulls the corner of the eyebrow up. This muscle is sometimes called the muscle of pain or grief because it plays a part in these emotions by moving the inner corners of eyebrows and the upper eyelid up. It creates the so-called "triangle of sorrow" at the medial part of the upper eyelid. The neutral emotion on a face changes when the "pain muscle" is in action—it makes eyes look sorrowful.

We can check this emotion on a model. Here are lifted medial corners of the eyebrows together with the corners of upper eyelids. We have a happy atmosphere today, so the sorrowful emotion is hard to act.

There is another muscle in the same part of the face that furrows the eyebrows, pulling them closer together. It is located in the nose bridge area and pulls the skin towards the medial line. When contracted, it creates the "folds of thought." Here are these two vertical lines on the model's face. You may notice that when a person is deep in contemplation, these wrinkles will give their state of mind away.

There is one more muscle in the middle that inserts to the skin of the nose bridge. This muscle pulls the skin between eyebrows downward. When contracted, it creates a horizontal fold at the nose bridge. This line is sometimes called the "fold of a proud man." This muscle usually works together with the muscle that wrinkles the eyebrows, and both vertical and horizontal folds are formed above the nose bridge. Here are these folds on a model's face.

When the combined emotions of contemplation and pride happens simultaneously on a person's face and he or she is looking at someone, this results an angry or fierce glare. In this emotion, eyebrows are brought together with vertical folds between them, there is a crease at the nose bridge, and eyes are fixed on you. This is how a glare is formed.

Let's ask our model to make such a look; you can see that slightly vicious expression appears on her face. Of course, there is some irony, as well, as she's smiling at the same time.

When a person is trying to use cunning, the lower portion of the round muscle of the eye might uncontrollably come into play. When it happens, wrinkles appear at the corners of eyes and the lower eyelids move up. Eyebrows and upper eyelids remain in a neutral position, while lower eyelids straighten up, causing the crow's-feet wrinkles.

Here is model demonstrating the "cunning eyes." This also happens when short-sighted people are trying to see in focus without glasses by squinting. Anyway, the cunning look on a face is caused by contracting the lower portion of the round muscle of the eye.

The nose muscle has two portions. It pulls the skin up, causing small wrinkles on the nose. Here is this muscle in action on the model's face. This is quite an emotional display of feelings.

So far, we have covered the muscles of the upper part of the face. You can see that a very limited number of muscles, which are not moving any bones, plays an important part in our social lives, displaying emotions for others to see.

Just by slightly moving the eyebrows, a person can display surprise on his or her face. Such emotion can also have a hint of sadness, fear, or joy. All these can be displayed by muscles on the forehead and the round muscle on the eye.

Mimic muscles do not move bones, only skin. Their purpose is to indicate emotions on person's face. They are constantly broadcasting the state of a person's mood. These muscles developed in humans because non-verbal communication plays an important role in social life.

The Old Masters used this knowledge to portray emotions in portraits.

Moving down from the muscles of the forehead and eyes, we need to mention muscles that originate from the cheekbone. But before that, we have to say a few words about the round muscle of the mouth, where they insert.

The round muscle of the mouth, like the round muscle of the eye, also has a round shape and upper and lower portions. The portion of the upper lip can work independently of its lower partner. These portions can pull the lips in different directions.

Here's the mouth muscle in action. If the whole muscle is contracted, the mouth closes firmly. Separately, the upper lip can be pulled up, or we can protrude the bottom lip.

Every portion of this muscle consists of two layers—one that is closer to the surface and a deeper one. Contract the upper layer, and the lips protrude forward, like the model demonstrates. And when the deeper layer is in play, the lips are compressed.

Compressed lips can display anger. And protruding lips can look sensual. We learn to control the mouth muscle more than the muscles of the forehead and eyes because we use the mouth for verbal language.

We also learn to hide or disguise emotions. For example, anger can be camouflaged by a smile.

There are two "smile muscles" that insert to the corners of the mouth and pull it sideways. These muscles originate from the chewing muscles on both sides of the head. So, when a person is trying to mask anger with a smile, the give-away would be flattened lips. Compressed lips also can portray strictness, or, in some cases, cruelty. The combination of a compressed upper lip with a protruding lower lip can suggest capriciousness or flightiness. This emotion is often displayed by children. Here's how it looks on a model's face.

Protrusion of the bottom lip can happen with age, when a person loses teeth, and the jaws are closing closer. Here's how it looks in drawing when upper teeth are missing.

The "smile muscle" pulls the corners of the mouth in to a smile. Some people have this muscle split into two portions. The space between those portions creates dimples on the cheeks. Although it looks attractive, it is actually a defect of the muscle, but a rather nice one.

There are other muscles that insert to the round muscle of the mouth and help to make a genuine smile. This muscle inserts to the upper corner of the mouth muscle and goes to the cheekbone, where it originates. This is the major muscle of the cheekbone. When contracted, these two muscles pull the corners of the mouth diagonally upward. Together with the "smile muscle," they create the full smile. This is how it works.

The mass of the cheek tissues is pushed up; this creates "crow's feet" at the eyes' corners. So, a genuine smile is always indicated by the eyes, not just the mouth. To portray a sincere smile, an artist has to draw the cheek mass higher together with creases of the eyes. A truly happy person does not smile with only the mouth, he or she smiles with eyes as well. You need to keep it in mind the next time you draw a smiling portrait. Even when the mouth is hidden, smiling eyes will give away the cheerful emotion on a face.

When you draw the lips in neutral position, the line between them is always pessimistically curved downward. However, the corners of the mouth can point up, making an optimistic look on the person's face. To increase the effect of the "Mona Lisa" smile, you can draw a couple of lines in the corners of the mouth. Then, by adding wrinkles in the eyes, a smile fleshes out more vividly.

To make the full smile, you can draw an open mouth with more stretched lips, but this is usually a sign of contemporary art rather than classical canons of more subtle emotions. The Old Masters seldom depicted exaggerated smiles because moderate emotions look more refined in portraits.

Next to the major cheekbone muscle, there is a minor cheekbone muscle. This minor muscle works together with one more muscle that is located next to it. This is the muscle that lifts the upper lip. This muscle runs next to the wing of the nose. That is why, when this muscle contracts, it lifts the wing of the nose as well. Here's how it works on the model's face. This muscle is sometimes called the "muscle of disgust" because it is involved in displaying such emotion. This muscle is active when a person smells something bad.

When a person displays contempt—the feeling that someone or something is worthless or beneath consideration—the following actions are taking place. One corner of the mouth moves up, together with half of the upper lip, pulled by the minor muscle of the cheek and the muscle that lifts the upper lip.

The look on a face when one corner of a mouth and one wing of the nose are lifted up is a tell-sign of contempt. This is an asymmetrical appearance, when one half of the mouth is typically in a neutral position. Because a person with such emotion on a face stands out from the crowd, some people use it briefly to attract attention. Using such emotion for a prolonged time gives discomfort to other people, which can cause dislike in return.

ow, about the muscles beneath the mouth. From the two corners of the mouth go muscles that pull the mouth corners downward. These chin muscles work in the opposite direction to the cheekbone muscles. On the chin, there are also two muscles that pull the bottom lip down. When a muscle pulls the corners of a mouth down, it also pulls the skin nearby. This changes the planes of the chin, and we can see how it works on the model's face. It is more difficult to live on this planet with such a facial expression. When the muscle that pulls the bottom lip is contracted, it also turns the lip outward. Here's how it works. The mouth would be usually half-open and the bottom lip arched...

[ The full lesson is avaibale to Life Drawing Academy members ]


This is your unique chance to get a lifetime academy membership and a dedicated team of art teachers.
Such unlimited personal tutoring is not available anywhere else.

Enroll in the Life Drawing Academy now!

Online Course

Lifetime membership
One-time payment: $297 USD

ENROLL NOW

Correspondence Course + Online Course

Lifetime membership
One-time payment: $997 USD

ENROLL NOW
Old Masters Academy
Drawing Academy
Anatomy Master Class