Draw and paint sub­tle emo­tions

John Stanko gets the most out of fa­cial ex­pres­sions.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - John Stanko

Fa­cial ex­pres­sions can be one of the most pow­er­ful tools for any fan­tasy illustrator. A mantra of­ten re­peated in il­lus­tra­tion is, “If you can paint hands and faces you can be suc­cess­ful,” but just paint­ing pretty faces isn’t enough. You need to be able to cap­ture sub­tle emo­tions to cre­ate be­liev­able char­ac­ters that help tell a vis­ual story. A well-painted fa­cial ex­pres­sion can give a unique in­sight into a char­ac­ter’s per­son­al­ity. It can tell us if they’re determined, an­gry, sad, a bit crazy and so on. Just as great fa­cial ex­pres­sions can take a paint­ing to the next level, a poor or ill­con­sid­ered ex­pres­sion can ruin a piece of art just as eas­ily. How many times have you seen a beau­ti­ful paint­ing only to no­tice that the main char­ac­ter has a blank look, or worse, an shield maiden try­ing to look sexy in the mid­dle of a battle? The fa­cial ex­pres­sion should help ad­vance the over­all sto­ry­telling of the im­age. No mat­ter how well a face is ren­dered, if it doesn’t fit the set­ting or tell the story, it won’t work. If it’s a battle then the char­ac­ter should look like they’re fight­ing, not pos­ing for a photo.

In your next paint­ing, take some time to ask your­self, “What’s this char­ac­ter think­ing?” Then try to cap­ture that look though fa­cial ex­pres­sions.

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