Please help me paint a char­ac­ter with a big smile

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation -

Jimmy McGoldrick, Eng­land

Sara replies

To paint a face with a par­tic­u­lar ex­pres­sion, I usu­ally hold a mir­ror next to me and mimic the ex­pres­sion. Hav­ing this ref­er­ence on hand, which I can see from many an­gles, helps a lot. A smile, be­cause of its char­ac­ter­is­tic of spon­tane­ity, is very dif­fi­cult to paint and is of­ten in dan­ger of look­ing fake, not very ex­pres­sive, or wicked. I’ll try to do my best!

Touch­ing my face also helps me to un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing when I laugh. When my mouth first widens, it opens in a cres­cent, the lips be­come thin­ner and the teeth are re­vealed (usu­ally only the top ones, but if the smile is very ex­pres­sive you can also see the lower ones).

The cheeks be­come rounded and they rise near the eyes, cre­at­ing two folds around the mouth. The eyes be­come half­closed and widen. Some­times the nose curls or widens slightly, too. Fi­nally, the head usu­ally tilts a bit. I keep these char­ac­ter­is­tics in mind as I pre­pare a sketch. I have to high­light these fea­tures us­ing colour.

I add a shadow un­der the lower eye­lid to the nar­rowed eyes. On the cheeks I add a touch of light to point out the round­ness. I pay at­ten­tion to the folds on the sides of the mouth, be­cause if they’re too dark and large they make the char­ac­ter ap­pear very old. But they are es­sen­tial for a beam­ing smile.

Septem­ber 2015

I can em­pha­sise a char­ac­ter’s beam­ing smile by us­ing bright light along with light shad­ows.

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