This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Understanding visual language - rage faces

As a cartoonist, I am fascinated with faces, and, of course, expressions. And it's amazing how much we interpret from so little when we are trying to understand someone's expression. In order for us to try to understand, we must attempt to put it in context. And the truth is that we humans don't really have as many facial expressions as our thoughts require. And that's what makes these little cartoons, commonly known as *rage faces* so appealing. There are lots and lots of rage faces, but I would like to concentrate on my favorite one. I really hate to try to give him a name, as that defeats the point. You can find lists of names because people feel compelled to do that. But this is a visual language, not a written one. I had a painting teacher once who said that if he could describe a painting, there would be no reason for him to paint it. And yes, you could read the visual language long before you were taught to apply words to it. If you think that it has been driven out of you by the years, give it a chance again.

The man in the picture is simply laughing. His eyes wrinkle and his head tilts. That in and of itself tells very little. The rage faces are all about *the reaction shot*. Is he showing disbelief? He probably is now that I said that. This particular drawing is used a lot to convey someone who is showing in a good-natured way that he knows that someone is pulling his leg.

Juxtaposition (putting things next to each other) enhances our interpretation of expressions. That's why it's so fun to do *rage comics* - simply place an expressive face next to, well, anything, and our brains are soothed as we know what his reaction is. It could be something he is being told, or something he is being shown. Of course, you can just have him saying something obscene, which is a cheap laugh, but that's not what this all about. This is about telling entertaining stories with simple imagery. When it's done right, it's wonderful - and no need for cgi special effects, either!