Join me and we’ll fill a sheet with a variety of faces in less than 10 minutes! I created this method when I realized that I love challenging myself by trying to draw different facial expressions with the simplest details in various shapes. Even if you like drawing detailed illustrations, this is still a great way to boost up your creativity while also practising.
This challenge is uncomplicated and easy. Our goal is to fill a sheet with circular shapes, then draw a unique facial expression for each shape however weird or tiny the shape may be.
Since I typically draw my illustrations digitally, my go-to tool is one of my Wacom pen displays, so for the exercise I use the same device. But when I’m about to paint a canvas, I do it the traditional way and swap the tablet with a pencil and a paper.
Today I’m using Photoshop on my Cintiq 22, so in this article I will be showing you how I go through this exercise by sharing the screenshots of my session with you. If you feel like it, you can also grab your drawing tablet, or just use a pencil and a sheet of paper. Every artist has a different warm-up method, so the most important thing is that you should go with the tool that you feel the most comfortable with.
Setting the Stage
Our first step is to prepare our canvas or paper.
I always like to do this exercise on a DIN A4 size canvas, which is 21×29.7 cm. I also use a paper which is the same size when I’m using traditional methods. The reason I go with this size is that for me it provides me with the most ideal space to fill, in a 10-minute-long session. If you’re doing the challenge with me, feel free to use a different size to your liking.
It is not necessary to have an incredible quality for this specific exercise but since I like drawing in high resolution, my personal preference right now is 300 dpi.
After preparing the canvas, I pick a soft colour for the background and one vibrant colour for my brush. Yes this is just an exercise but I like seeing some colours whenever I can in my work, and if you are also like me, just choose your fav colours.
Next step is choosing the brush. I like using the Canvas brush set of Marradae that you can download for free here through this link. It goes very well with the sketchy vibe of this challenge because the brushes feel and look very realistic. For a cleaner look, different brushes can be used as well.
Once we have our canvas, colours, and brush set and ready, we can start drawing random circles on the sheet.
Don’t be try to precise with the circles all the time, just draw whatever feels natural to your hand and wrist.
You can also try drawing different shapes, squares, or triangles rather than circles. But since these shapes will be the heads, I try to stick with round and fluid motions.
Once you complete filling up the sheet, it should look something like this:
Now just pick any shape from the sheet and start drawing facial expressions that come to your mind, one followed by the other.
Drawing a different expression each time, try to use as few lines as you can while maintaining the look and feeling.
Are you starting to feel it? Try to get creative with the expressions.
Here are some useful points to follow:
- What is this character feeling, what will the face show? The character may be angry, happy, surprised, shocked, confused, sceptical, embarrassed, thoughtful, sad, or disappointed, or even something else. Just try to show the emotion and exaggerate it so that it can be understood at first glance.
- Are their mouths closed or open? Do their teeth show when they open their mouths? How does it affect the expression? Sometimes not showing the teeth at all, or just showing either the upper or lower row can change the whole emotion in the look of the character.
- Can you still show the emotions without relying on the eyebrows? I personally feel like this is one of the most challenging points.
- If you just draw tiny dots for the eyes, how will you direct their gaze in different directions? I try drawing the whole face to one side in this scenario.
- In cases where the head shape is a different shape than circle, try to go with the flow and challenge yourself to draw the mouth, the eyes, or the eyebrows bigger or smaller to stay in harmony with the shape.
I’m done, and my sheet looks like this. How did you do?
For me finishing this sheet lasted only about 10 minutes. I tried to be as fast as I can, while trying not to leave any face empty.
As artists, it is fun to push the boundaries of our creativity and watch our horizons expand. With each facial expression challenge, I find myself drawing something new, or figuring out a detail that never occurred to me before.
The next time you’re looking for a fun warmup exercise, remember this method. Dive in, express freely, and take your creativity one step further.
About the author:
Zeynep Alpay is a freelance multidisciplinary artist and illustrator based in Düsseldorf, Germany. Their work encompasses illustrations, animations, paper cut-outs, and traditional artwork.
For more information or to see more of Zeynep’s works, check out their portfolio.