Artist Q&A

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I want to paint my char­ac­ter with a painful-look­ing ex­pres­sion. What should I take into ac­count?

Fin­ley Cur­tis, Eng­land


Mélanie replies

I start this task by con­duct­ing some re­search, be­cause how­ever much I think I can visualise a painful ex­pres­sion, see­ing one in front of me will be much more use­ful. I also have the op­tions of ei­ther us­ing my­self as a ref­er­ence, or ask­ing a friend to recre­ate the de­sired ex­pres­sion. For con­ve­nience’s sake I usu­ally go for the self-ref­er­ence: I have a small mir­ror placed next to my screen, which comes in pretty use­ful dur­ing the paint­ing process.

Ex­pres­sions are mainly con­veyed by the eyes and mouth. As well as the size and shape of a per­son’s eyes, the in­cli­na­tion of their eye­brows and mouth are ef­fec­tive yet sim­ple way to ex­press emo­tion.

To work the ex­pres­sion’s in­ten­sity – in this case, pain – I sim­ply ac­cen­tu­ate the fa­cial move­ments, such as the mouth, which can be more or less open to sim­u­late a cry of pain. The eyes could ei­ther be wide open or tightly closed with frown lines. And if the pain is in­tense, con­sider adding de­tails such as tears, or ex­tra pale skin, in­di­cat­ing the on­set of shock. Here I’ve cho­sen not to show what’s caus­ing the pain, so that the viewer can fo­cus on the fa­cial fea­tures.

When paint­ing a painful ex­pres­sion, ac­cen­tu­ate and ex­ag­ger­ate. The more ob­vi­ous the ex­pres­sion, the more the viewer will grasp what’s hap­pen­ing to the char­ac­ter.

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