Rendering the Mouth

Savannah Tate Cuff
Duration:   35  mins

Continuing her portrait drawing of a live model, artist Savannah Tate Cuff is ready to render, or model, the mouth. Her block-in phases are complete, and she’s added shading to the forehead, eyes, and nose. The corners of the mouth are already established, aligning vertically with the eyes and horizontally with the ears. Because the mouth can move around and be expressive, a strong drawing is an essential starting point.

Savannah begins by sketching the planes of the lips in the margins of her paper to show that the upper lip is planar and the lower lip more cylindrical, and the area between the nose and mouth is concave at the center. She works on the corners of the mouth to describe the forms and terminators that connect to multiple muscles. Savannah marks subtle highlights above the lip with white chalk, using a Mahl stick to prevent smudging. On the lip itself, a sharp pencil helps to create a gradation in this small space. Savannah darkens the separation between upper and lower lip but doesn’t go too dark, avoiding what’s known as simultaneous contrast where highlights can make a dark line appear even darker. Subtle texture on the upper lip helps to avoid the form being too generalized, and the cast shadow below the nose helps describe the form of the maxilla, or upper jaw bone.

As she continues to render the lips and the areas above and around the mouth, Savannah continually works to correctly portray light and shadows, always modeling out of the terminator of each shadow area. She then models the chin, imagining it as an egg in its simplest form. An HB pencil and light pressure help her create darker, softer lines for the terminator under the chin, and she renders the area from there.