An Expressive Workshop

July 20th, 2010 | Posted in News

One of the books that sees a lot of wear on my bookshelf is The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression by Gary Faigin. It’s a very comprehensive look into what happens to the face when certain emotions come into play, and shows how to draw someone displaying those emotions. That’s a pretty important skill when doing visual storytelling, and caricature artists can learn a lot from it as well.

The author will be conducting a five day (FIVE DAYS?!?!) workshop on the subject this upcoming December at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, WA. The workshop must give thorough and comprehensive an entirely new meaning, because you can read the book itself in an afternoon… but no question Mr. Faigin knows his stuff so The workshop is bound to be enlightening. If you are in the Seattle area it might be worth a look see.

Here’s the official announcement… it says you can register online but I didn’t see it listed yet:

Five-Day Workshop | Mon, December 6 – Fri, December 10, 2010

Teaching Artist: Gary Faigin

Author: The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression
Lecturer: Industrial Light & Magic and American Academy of Plastic Surgery
Consultant: Animation Production Capstone, Computer Science Dept, UW

Despite our familiarity with faces, a discrepancy can occur between transferring the facial expression one sees in real life into the representation of one. Gary Faigin, artist, author and acclaimed lecturer will address this phenomenon and other common problems in a five-day workshop at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. While countless workshops offer instruction in depicting the head, this workshop offers forensic experts, animators, cartoonists, plastic surgeons as well as those curious to learn about the mechanics of a smile, a unique and comprehensive opportunity to understand facial expression.

Through a series of lectures, demonstrations and one-on-one instruction, Faigin offers students thorough instruction on how to convincingly portray emotion. Working at their own station, students are provided with drawing materials, a plastic skull, modeling clay and a mirror, and begin the week by drawing their own face in relation to the skull underneath.

Students also gain an objective understanding of the face through a systematic exploration of the muscles that control expression. Working with modeling clay, students form important muscles of various expressions which are later positioned onto a plastic skull. Using this foundation, students are then able to use their own face as a model to draw front and side views that highlight the various muscles in action.

Working in conjunction with Faigin, students also learn how to depict the six categories of emotion (sadness, anger, joy, fear, disgust and surprise) and progress to life drawing from an actor or model at the week’s close. Students also examine a variety of visual sources, including cartoons, master paintings and other artistic depictions of facial expression to inform their work.

At the end of the week, students leave with an increased understanding and command of facial expression, taking home their expression notebook as well as a completed clay-model muscular skull.

Register online at or call 206-323-GAGE (4243) or 1-800-880-3898


  1. Lafontaine says:

    Hello Tom Richmond,
    I’ve first met you in Atlanta in 1990 (more or less). There were these workshop on airbrush given by Drew Blair and Mark Frederickson. I then saw you again at the ISCA in Raleigh, Carolina almost 20 years later. I am amazed of the progress and the continuous efforts you made to improve the field of caricature and also about the results and the quality you achieved in your personnal work…totally amazing! I visit your blog regularly and I find a lot of useful information that help me and that, I am sure, help hundreds of artists.
    Congratulation for the efforts you make to upgrade our profession. I have been largely inspired by the ISCA incredible development to start with the help of a few friends 1001Visages in Montreal 5 years ago. If you have the time you can watch our latest annual ‘Get together of caricaturists’ at the Youtube link below.
    Congratulations again

  2. Ed Meisinger says:

    Thanks for the recommendation on what looks like a great book. I noticed in the index however, that with all the expressions listed, “thinking” is not there. Do you have any recommendations for instructions on drawing that difficult (for me) expression?

  3. Lee Fortuna says:

    Tom, I thought you liked & used the book “Facial Expressions” by Mark Simon? Which one would you recommend for Humorous Illustration?

    • Tom says:

      Facial Expressions by Mark Simon is not a book about drawing but a collection of reference pictures of various models making uncommon facial expressions. It’s of great use as a reference for secondary characters in illustration work. Two very different animals.

  4. Vainamoinen says:

    I love that book to pieces and I am, in fact, just about to work through it again. Still, it’s been 20 years since it was published – I wonder if Faigin would like to change or add things to the book with his experience of the last two decades. If someone is actually there, do me a favor and please ask! 😉

    @Ed Meisinger: Faigin argues convincingly that only six emotional states are immediately and unmistakably recognizable. His book is based on that idea, so the rather vague idea of “thinking” is certainly not depicted. However, WHAT someone is thinking could influence the actual expression – and here Faigin’s book could REALLY help. 😉


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