Tips On Pencil Portrait Sketching – Complete Muscle Structure Of The Muzzle

Capturing the faint, fleeting expressions of individual feelings in portrait sketching is a test for every draftsperson. There are effectively six primary emotions: surprise, happiness, sadness, anger, fear and disgust.

The gestures of these key feelings are instinctual, the muscle relationships and actions are involuntary. Generally, the facial muscles are fragile, finely in step and easily seen because they lie just under the surface.

The facial muscles not only portray moods and gestures they also display sympathetic characteristics. For example, when we are threading a needle we often pucker our lips to help the thread through the needles eye.

All facial gestures involve the muscles and other regions of the mouth. Therefore, to grasp the facial gestures we must first appreciate the mouth which is more than just the red lips.

The mouth part extends from the bottom of the nose to the Mentolabial Sulcus, i.e., the sulk-line of the chin. The mouth is a convex shape and wraps around the muzzle of the face.

Drawing the mouth should invariably start with the drawing of the Interstice, i.e., the horizontal line where the lower and upper lips meet. The lips wrap around the convex projection of the dental arch and the interstice roughly corresponds to the middle segment of the frontal, upper teeth.

Note that the Nodes in the corners of the mouth are lower than the center of the interstice, except in a smile when the facial muscles pull up the nodes.

The lips, or Labia, are composed of mucous membrane whose redness is the result of blood capillaries lying just under the skin.

The upper lip consists of three shapes. In the center is the Tubercle which is non-muscular and add to the V form of the top where it meets the base of the Philtrum. The Philtrum is the elongated, vertical furrow that extends from the base of the nose to the tubercle of the top.

The philtrum, which means love drop, is bounded by ridges on each side. Practically every beginning draftsperson overextends the philtrum, thus placing the mouth too low.

The other 2 components of the top lip are two, horizontal elongated forms. The muscles here, however, are the visible ridges of the central vertical fibers of the Orbicularis Oris whose activity results in the pursing up of the lips. The various facial muscles fastened to the nodes of the mouth do the pushing and pulling.

The upper lip is flatter than the bottom lip. It is a downward tilting plane and ordinarily appears darker than the lower lip. There is a small up-plane on the vermillion border of the upper lip that quite often catches a gentle light. For most people, the top lip tucks into the nodes.

The bottom lip ordinarily stops a bit short of the nodes. The lower lip is heavier and fuller. It is comprised of two elongated forms that give it a more squared-off look than the top lip.

Somewhat below the vermilion border of the lower lip is a elevated edge that develops laterally and is more obvious at the corners.

The vermilion border of the lower lip should not be drawn with a distinct line, it has to be suggested more than drawn. Otherwise it will look like lipstick.

The bottom lip is an up-plane and will often catch the light. Like the upper lip, the ridges of the central vertical fibers of the orbicularis oris form the texture of the bottom lip.

The bottom of the mouth area is at the mentolabial. Shaping at the lower edge of the lower lips two stretched forms are two columnar tubes that radiate diagonally downward. These are the Pillars of the Mouth. This is a down plane and thus will lie in shadow.

With this we end the overall account of the things that make the mouth and ultimately the smile.

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Remi Engels is a pencil portrait artist and oil painter and expert drawing teacher. See his work at graphite pencil portraits by Remi.

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