Please help me give my characters expressive eyes
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.