ART SKILLS: A simple approach to drawing the mouth.
The mouth is one of the key elements or a portrait. It is not as important as the eyes but it is an expressive element that gives character to a picture. Beginning artists often attempt to use lines to draw the mouth but such an approach is rarely successful. Here is a simple approach that Valda showed me, which relies on shadows rather than lines.
This approach begins by drawing the shape of the upper lip. It is a shape that varies from person to person and with the angle that you are viewing the person from. However, in general, looking straight at the person, the upper lip resembles a flattened M shape. It is typically fuller in women than in men.
Draw the shape of the upper lip (see figure one). Do not use lines to draw the shape. Rather, use the side of the pencil and draw it with shading.
Next, draw the shadow under the lower lip, i.e. the shadow between the mouth and the chin. Let this shadow define the shape of the lower lip.
The result is an accepable mouth. (see figure two). You can leave it as is or enhance it depending on how detailed you want your picture to be.
You can enhance the mouth by further shading. For example, you can make the upper lip darker on one side than the other in order to be in harmony with other features on the dark side of the face. In your shading, you can also leave areas unshaded to show the highlights on the lower lip. The shading on the lower lip can approach but should not equal the darkness of the shading under the lower lip. You could also make the corners of the mouth slightly larger to indicate the ends of the mouth.
In John Singer Sargent's portrait of Lady Vincent, the artist did not labor his drawing of the subject's mouth. The shape of the upper lip is a solid form. He darkened the lower edge of this shape to indicate the line separating the lips. He then defined the lower lip with a shadow under the lower lip. There are also faint touches of shading in places on the lower lip. A simple but highly effective rendering.
Along the same lines, in Valda's portrait of Ernst Toller, the upper lip is an undifferntiated dark shape. The lower lip is defined by the dark shadow between the mouth and the chin. The result is a more modernistic rendering but nonetheless effective.
Above: John Singer Sargent's portrait of Lady Vincent.
Below: Valda's portrait of Ernst Toller.
Art technique - Drawing the Basic Face - A simple approach to drawing the mouth