Please help me give my char­ac­ters ex­pres­sive eyes

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation Artist Q&A -

An­swer

Nick replies

It’s hu­man na­ture to study other peo­ple’s eyes to read emo­tions, even in pic­tures, so they of­fer a great tool to use in your own im­agery. Our in­stinc­tive peo­ple-watch­ing be­hav­iour means we al­ready have a life­time of study un­der our belts. Be con­scious of this.

You need to un­der­stand that we aren’t talk­ing about the eye alone. The rest of the face works in com­bi­na­tion for each ex­pres­sion. Eye­brows in par­tic­u­lar form an es­sen­tial part. It also pays to un­der­stand some­thing of the way the mus­cle groups of the face work, and so some study of anatomy books won’t hurt.

The com­bi­na­tion of ex­pres­sion and body lan­guage adds life to a char­ac­ter. Do you throw your head back when you laugh? Thrust your neck for­ward and glower when an­gry (with hands on hips)? Look for such things when you’re peo­ple watch­ing. Make men­tal or sketch notes when you spot be­hav­iour like this.

Be pre­pared to work at it to get an ex­pres­sion right. There may only be the width of a line be­tween in­ter­est and con­cern. And of course we all look dif­fer­ent too (iden­ti­cal sib­lings aside), so you’ll see end­less vari­a­tions in life, in­flu­enced by eth­nic­ity, age and gen­der. There’s end­less fun to be had with eyes!

I sketch out these pairs of eyes based on sim­ple cir­cles. As well as eye­brows and wrin­kles, don’t for­get that the pupil size varies ac­cord­ing to the light in the scene and your char­ac­ter’s mood.

Age, eth­nic­ity and at­ti­tude all in­flu­ence ex­pres­sion and how a char­ac­ter comes across. Hope­fully these three each look sus­pi­cious in their own way.

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