How to draw a cowering figure

Nick Harris reveals his top tips for creating a convincing character cowering with terror.

Although my sketches are rather caricatured, and only represent one starting option, these simple guidelines should help lead you to a convincing impression of being terrified.

Although it's always best to tailor each figure specifically to its scene, there are a couple of basic staples that can get you started here. We're talking body language and facial expression, and if you can't see both then the other needs to get the message across.

The word cowering is normally associated with fear, either 
so debilitating that it denotes an acceptance of one's fate, or pleading to be spared whatever the particular terror is.

Body language

It's natural instinct in that position to arch away from the threat or curl up into a ball, rather like the foetal position, trying to make yourself as small as possible a target.

Despite different features, you should be able to use recognisable human body language to put across that same terror in humanoid creatures.

Expression

terrified person

Facial features that show terror: wide eyes, eyebrows angled up at the brow and wide open mouth

Either body-language stereotype should work if correctly placed with respect to the peril. Suitable facial expression should consolidate the message.

For some examples of interpretation of abject terror, you could do worse than seek out some of those classic horror B-movie posters with screaming girls in them. Eyes wide open, eyebrows angled up at the brow and mouth agape mid-scream.

Words: Nick Harris

Gloucestershire-based Nick went digital in 2000 after 18 years working with traditional methods. He works mainly on children’s illustrations. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 91.

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