Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Only Have Eyes For You

While working at Disney many years ago, we were asked to do a drawing exercise to explore expression using only the eyes. Some of the eyes we drew ended up in The Illusion of Life book. The idea was to see how many variations we could get by changing up brows, eyelids, pupil direction, etc. We were told that the first thing the audience looks for when connecting with a character on the screen are the eyes. Therefore, the eyes needed to clearly convey the thoughts and emotion of the character. This is a fun exercise I thought some of you might like to try.
 © Toby Shelton 2010
Tips: 1.) The left eye doesn't have to do what the right eye is doing. Variation can add life to your expressions. 2.) Don't think of eyelids as "windshield wipers" or "venetian blinds" mechanically moving over the eye. They are soft fleshy parts that wrap around the eye and can change shape when pushed and pulled by facial muscles.


  1. I love these! Makes me want to work on my own eyes more :)

  2. What a brilliant idea! I'll have to do this for practice every once in a while.

  3. Brilliant!

    Great to see an exploration of many different eye poses, rather than falling back on cliches.

    Now - time for me to get to practising.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. ahh. thanks for the tip!

    those eyes are awesome! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this cool exercise!

  6. Great idea! Practice time!!! =)

  7. Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

  8. Man, I wish I would have seen this yesterday when I was finishing up a final project for my character design class. Great post!

  9. This is great. I need to do one of these.

  10. Hey Toby!

    These are great drawings! Love your blog, the drawings from How To Train Your Dragon and fantastic (awesome film too!)

    Speak soon,

  11. Ah man, thats another difficult one. Its too tempting to stick to the constructive method of building a head and not remember to push/bend and deform eye pieces to push expressions further. Guess its all part of the 33000 drawings run. Thanks man ! Gotta keep somekind of post-its with those great notes somewhere on my wall so that i never forget.