How can I portray mixed emotions within a group of people?
Jon Douglas, England
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.