Drawing Eyes and Eye Movements

Len (reversed, detail; vine charcoal and compressed charcoal on Strathmore 400 drawing paper)

When you have a conversation with someone, what do you look at? Most likely the person’s eyes. The eyes reveal personality as well as moods and feelings, such as happiness, sadness, alertness, cunning, fatigue, nervousness, fear and surprise. Sometimes people say more through their eyes than by their words.

Before you attempt to translate expressions and moods through the eyes in your drawings, you need to understand how the eyes are positioned and how they move in the head. The eyeballs sit in the sockets of the skull. Eyeballs can rotate left, right, up and down. The movement of muscles and skin around the eyeballs is what actually reveals expressions. The illustrations depict how the eye appears in different positions.
Eye Movements

A When the eyes are looking to one side or the other, the skin and muscles around the eyes form a teardrop shape.


B In profile, the iris appears as a narrow elliptical disk. Notice how far the eye is set back from the bridge of the nose.


C The eyelid is open and has folded up under the brow. Can you see the shadow that the upper eyelid casts on the upper part of the eyeball?


D When the eye looks up, the eyelid folds even more under the brow, and more of the white of the eye shows under the iris. The iris appears more elliptical than round.


E When the eyelids are closed, the upper lid curves smoothly over the eyeball. As the eye opens, the upper lid starts to fold under the brow. Both upper and lower lids exhibit a thickness and protrude slightly from the eye.


More Lessons from Paul Leveille

To see Leveille’s lessons for the mouth, ear and nose, get the December issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Learn more here.

Click here for the downloadable version.

Check out a step-by-step demo by Paul Leveille here.

Learn about his book Painting Expressive Portraits at a reduced price here.

Paul Leveille paints portraits of nationally and internationally distinguished clients and also conducts portrait painting workshops and demonstrations around the country. He lives in western Massachusetts. See his website at www.paulleveillestudio.com.
This demo is excerpted from Drawing Expressive Portraits, © 2001 by Paul Leveille, used with permission from North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Media Inc. Visit your local bookseller, call 800/258-0929 or go to www.northlightshop.com to obtain a copy.


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