Congratulations—you’ve made it through three out of four major facial features! Now it’s time for the last feature before we move on to putting the whole head together. Of course, we’ll include a brief anatomy lesson to help you get started…
Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:
Exercise 1: Watch The 14-Minute Video
Exercise 2: Sculpting The Mouth!
We expect that each exercise in this lesson will take about one hour to complete, though this may vary from student to student depending on your individual pace. Take your time, don’t rush, and if you need to stop you can. If you have more than an hour to spare, then work as long as you feel comfortable!
Exercise One: Watch The 14-Minute Video
Exercise 1 consists of watching the video then reading the text below. We recommend you watch the video all the way through once without attempting to follow along, just to get an idea of what’s in store later. After that, read through the text about the anatomy of the mouth and at the end of the lesson, you’ll sculpt along with Kent as you watch the video for a second time.
We also recommend students (particularly non-English speakers and those with hearing challenges) watch the videos with the closed captions turned on. For information on YouTube’s Closed Captioning, see this post here.
Anatomy Of The Mouth
As with the eyes and nose, the shape of the mouth is very much dictated by what lies beneath…the teeth. This can be tricky for beginning sculptors (and painters too, for that matter) because we tend to think of the mouth as lying on a flat plane.
This illustration shows the rounded form of the mouth as it is closed, open, and wide open to give you some idea of the mechanics of the mouth and jaw. The top row shows the underlying structure, i.e. the skull, and the second row shows the fleshy composition on top, i.e. the lips.
When we look at someone’s mouth from the front, we can see both end points, which makes it appear flat. However, the teeth and jaw are rounded forms and the lips sit on top of that, so the mouth is actually curved, with the center being in the most prominent position and the corners of the mouth curving back around the rounded form of the teeth.
You don’t need to worry about the names of the bones in this image. I put it here because I think this angle gives a really good example of the roundedness of the teeth and jaw area. It protrudes from the face just as far as the top bone of the nose and in some cases, even further.
Online art instructor Stan Prokopenko describes the tooth area as looking like an inflated tuna can, which I think is a really great way to imagine it.
Image borrowed from http://www.stanprokopenko.com/blog/2009/07/draw-lips/
David Jon Kassan from Artist Daily says, “Understanding this roundness of the overall form helps the artist depict how the center of the lips are closer to the viewer (on a straight-on view of the model) and thus how the corners of the mouth fold away from us in space, as if each side were attached to strings that were being pulled tight around a tin can.” That’s a strong visual to help us remember the shape of the structure of the mouth!
Soft Structure Of The Mouth
Now with this understanding of the hard “architecture” of the mouth, we can start talking about the soft structure on top of it. Let’s look at a face in profile:
I will outline her profile now so you can see it better:
You can see how the lips make a sort of staircase on the front of the face:
You can see from the side that the top lip protrudes out further than the bottom lip and the bottom lip protrudes out further than the chin, like a descending staircase.
The top lip can be effectively divided into three sections—the two outside pieces connected to a soft ball shape in the center. That soft ball shape in the center is defined by indents on either side of it, making the center of the top lip dip slightly into the bottom lip.
The bottom lip is divided in two pieces, exactly in half where the two shapes meet and make a slight indent.
Okay, now I think it’s time to get started on the actual sculpting process! As we did in the other lessons, we want you to watch the video all the way through before you start working on your own sculpture.
Since it’s easier to look at your mouth than it is your ear, get your mirror out once more so you have a good reference for the mouth. You don’t have to sculpt your mouth exactly, but it’s good to have a mirror for a real life reference.
Start with your ball of clay and push it down into your board in a rounded shape like a partial cylinder with the sides and top sort of melting onto your board. The bottom edge should be at a right angle to your board to indicate the chin. With one of your sculpture tools, remove some clay about 1/3 of the way up from the chin. This is to help define the indent between the bottom lip and the chin. Use your tool again to scrape off some of the extra clay on the sides to further define the chin and jaw line.
Now create the midpoint between the top and bottom lips. Use your tool to gouge into the clay just above where you made the previous depression for the chin. Using a downward motion, pull the clay down towards the chin region to create the fullness of the bottom lip. Scrape away any excess clay and smooth the bottom lip slightly. At this point in the video, Kent is talking about facial proportions, but don’t worry about that yet—we’ll talk about those in the next lesson!
Add more clay to the chin if you need (as Kent is doing). Take a small amount of clay and add it to the top lip. Then using your tool again, start pushing that clay in a rounded shape. First push some of the clay into the crevice between the top and bottom lip. Then using your tool, push some of the clay upwards in a sweeping motion. Imagine you are turning a screwdriver in a clockwise rotation —that same hand motion will help you to achieve that rounded form for the top lip. As Kent says in the video, it’s pulling material from the inside of the mouth and rounding it upwards.
With your tool again, create a divot at the center point of the top lip, between the top lip and the bottom of the nose. Make sure that this area, between the ending of the top lip and the beginning of the nose is slanted backwards in space, or sloping back towards the skull. On the lips themselves, there’s an almost imperceptible ridge along the very edges. Adding this will make your lips look more natural and realistic.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you can dip your brush into your paint thinner (if you’re using it) and begin to smooth out the clay.
Exercise Two: Sculpting The Mouth!
- 2” ball of plastiline clay
- Small board
- Sculpture tools
- Soft paintbrush and paint thinner (optional)
Watch the video again and sculpt along with Kent to create a mouth!
Congratulations! How did your mouth turn out? Send us your results! Use our submission form here to send us a picture of your mouth sculpture.
See how other students have done with this exercise! Click below to see the student gallery:
Key Lesson Learning: You’ve learned about the anatomy of the mouth and the effect of the teeth, and sculpted your first mouth.
Now you have all four facial features “under your belt!” It’s time to put everything you’ve learned into one full face. Go on to our next lesson to learn about how all these parts fit together in Facial Proportions and Sculpting a Face.
Next lesson: Facial Proportions And Sculpting A Face
This is really great! I’ve been making faces with no lips for quite a while without realizing how easy it is. Thank you!
Your video was a great help…my problem is that I am making a statue and the head is about 2″ high and it is hard to create a mouth in so little a space. Any suggestions?