Facial Expressions - A Visual Reference for Artists


I’ve been a professional artist for over twenty-five years. Early on, I had a repertory of only about five different faces that I always drew. Then I began looking for additional reference sources. I took pictures of family and friends to use as reference for my various projects. Next, I went through magazines and newspapers and cut out photos of interesting faces to add to my collection. Then came the internet, a wonderful source for accessing photos of celebrities.

Consistently forcing myself to draw new and different subjects helped me to grow as an artist, and my file of references contributed greatly. But then I realized that one image of one face did not give me all the reference I needed for drawing an individual from several angles, showing a range of facial expressions.

Granted, like most artists, I have mirrors around me and can mug into them and copy the look I need for a given piece of art. But suppose I want to draw a large woman with an angry look. The angry expression on my slim male face won’t look the same as the anger on a heavy female face. And if I needed to depict a sad old man twice my age, the lines on his face would be quite different from those on my face. I realized that instead of trying to have a harem of models at my beck and call, I needed to develop a file of faces representing many types and ages, with expressions simulating a variety of moods, photographed from many different angles.

My book Facial Expressions and the free samples shown here are the result. It was motivated by my quest to be a better artist and to help my artist friends by sharing this collection of indispensable reference material with them. In discussing the concept for this book with many professionals—from animators to fine illustrators to comic book artists—they all agreed that this book would be an essential tool for them. “The images contained in this volume are an excellent ‘launch pad’ in the creative process for both the professional artist and student,” says Gary Lessord, painter and fine artist of natural and biblical works.

Facial Expressions shows more than fifty different men and women of various ages and ethnicities, each expressing a broad array of emotions for the camera. As their faces simulated different moods, I took pictures from a number of angles, so there are dozens of shots of each model. In addition, since this reference book is for artists, I thought that you, the creative reader, would enjoy seeing examples of how these photos can stimulate creative work, so I asked a number of professionals in the art world to select a reference photo from this collection and base a work of art on it, using any medium of their choice. Scattered through the book you’ll find realistic illustrations, caricatures, sculptures, and many other works of art inspired by these photos.

Artists are already making great use of this reference material. “I have used this awesome book many times over for my comic art work on Spider-man and The Phantom, as well as for my advertising clients,” says Alex Saviuk, veteran comic book artist and storyboard artist.

Travis Blaise, Disney animator and co-director of the award-winning series Timmy’s Lessons In Nature, agrees, “This book is a must-have for students and professionals alike.”


The reference photos shown here are free extras, not even included in the book. They are yours to help inspire your work. Enjoy the references. Allow your creativity to thrive. And never let anyone talk you out of expressing yourself.

Please note: The photos in this article may not be reproduced or used in any way other than as reference for artists. While the models understand that their faces may be replicated in all forms of art, they have not released the rights for their photos to be used outside of this text.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer and lecturer who is also the author of Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and Storyboards: Motion In Art. He can be found lurking around at www.FunnyToons.tv.

Facial Expressions is available at all bookstores or online retailers.



Free sample pages of one model not included in book.