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How can I por­tray mixed emo­tions within a group of peo­ple?

Jon Dou­glas, Eng­land


Sara replies

To an­swer this ques­tion I de­cide to draw a group of friends, who are gath­ered on a couch in front of a tele­vi­sion to watch a hor­ror film. The viewer won’t ac­tu­ally see what’s on the screen, and so this means that I can con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing the char­ac­ters’ dif­fer­ent fa­cial ex­pres­sions, and not worry about what they’re ac­tu­ally watch­ing.

I start by sketch­ing mixed fig­ure poses sit­ting on the couch. For the mo­ment, I don’t place too much at­ten­tion on the anatomy and in­stead fo­cus on the nat­u­ral­ness of their poses. When I’m re­lax­ing at home my back is rarely straight, and my legs and arms are never folded – so why should my col­lec­tion of char­ac­ters be any dif­fer­ent?

I place the tele­vi­sion on the right be­cause I an­tic­i­pate that the paint­ing will be seen from left to right, so that the viewer has plenty of time to take in the faces of the var­i­ous char­ac­ters.

Once I’m sat­is­fied with their poses, I pro­duce the fi­nal sketch and add var­i­ous de­tails to the en­vi­ron­ment: pop­corn, a cat and a dog. I choose a night-time set­ting, be­cause it fits well with the hor­ror film choice. Fur­ther­more, the dark colours con­trast nicely with the light that’s com­ing from the tele­vi­sion, and this will help me fo­cus at­ten­tion on the char­ac­ters. I don’t go into too much de­tail in the back­ground be­cause this could prove a dis­trac­tion. In­stead, I fo­cus on their faces and paint their ex­pres­sions.

I want each char­ac­ter to have a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity, and so it’s im­por­tant to vary their ex­pres­sions. Here’s a rough sketch show­ing only the pos­ture and anatomy of my fig­ures, which helps me see if the im­age is bal­anced.

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