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