Friday, May 8, 2009

Horse art

If I were to classify my art as directly horse-related, I would have to say the most frequently asked question in the field of horses is "how do you DO that?"... of course, quickly followed by "can you make me one?" or "can you teach me?"

Now, the answer to the last two, in order, are "if you pay me," and "no." This sort of thing I can't teach. I can give general guidelines for people to follow and practice and attempt to match (though in realism you should attempt to match the real life thing you are trying to copy, not someone else's art), but I can't just show you how to be a good artist.

However, the first question is more or less easily attainable. For the sake of having examples, I (at work, of course) quickly drew up a horse in a "just for fun" type of drawing. With these, the shading usually lacks detail, there are anatomy problems and usually they have a sketchy kind of look to them. I really enjoy doing these because it doesn't take any more than a half hour to do and it gives me basic practice.

I don't always have five hours to pour into a drawing, so these help me stay on top of my art while still sticking with my schedule.

So, how do I do that?

First off, I think of a pose and Google image search said pose. In this case, I was thinking of a trot. So, I typed in trot and picked a picture that looked alright. The lines were clear, the horse was attractive, and it wasn't a minuscule picture.

Now, when I do serious realism, I will find six, seven... even ten or eleven reference pictures. Things that have different definition, maybe the neck is more defined in one but you can see the leags clearer in another. With these kind of drawings, however, I pick one picture and use it as a basic reference. Sometimes I don't even use a picture.

The picture I do pick is often manipulated into something completely different when I'm done, but that's okay because that's what's beautiful about art.

This is the image I picked:

Okay, so now that I have an image, where do I go from there? Somehow, I have to get a likeness either from that image or inside my head, onto paper.

The first thing I do is plan out the basic arrangement of limbs and the shape of the head, neck, shoulder, and hip using lines and circles. Most artists call it a "skeleton" because that's exactly what it is. It defines the build and shape of the drawing, and is its most basic structure. Slightly resembles one as well!

This is done very lightly, and I will erase it as I move more into the drawing, almost immediately. Keep in mind all of the following images are low-quality cell phone photos and they are often warped by the camera angle, lighting, etc. I unfortunately do not have a scanner here. Darn place of work.

Okay, but that hardly resembles the full-bodied horse in my Google image. That looks like someone's stick horse, right. So the next step is to make it recognizable as a horse. Following the skeleton I made and the contours of the horse in the picture, I create an outline that mimics the image I Googled, only with a touch of my own originality.

As you see, the horse in the picture is a Thoroughbred-ish horse, and the following outline is more like a Warmblood. I thickened and arched the neck more, thickened the body a bit and filled out the tail a bit more. This outline also includes muscle lines, nostrils, and eyes to guide my shading.

Okay, but that's very two-dimensional. The thing I love about making art is trying to bring it to life in a way that not only impresses others, but myself. I want to look at something I draw and think "I really like that." It doesn't matter if it's a doodle or a work of realism... I want to bring it to life. When I have the time, I like to work on different shading and lighting.

The shading I did on this horse is more of a grey horse. I didn't feel like drawing a bay, which is odd because I almost always draw dark-colored horses. I'm actually quite pleased and I had a bit of fun with it. I start with the head and work my way down the horse and back to the tail. I'll pick a section (head, neck, shoulder, leg, barrel, hip, or hair) and first do the darkest parts of it, then work away from them into the lighter areas. The reason why I like drawing dark horses is because I like playing with dark and light contrasts... dark horses will have very, very dark points but also light highlights. I still had fun with this one, though.

I study the part of the horse that I'm shading and work off of that. I really don't know how else to describe it but to instead show you.

This really was a fun little piece. I know there are many faults but I fail to care because all in all it is an attractive piece that I look at and smile. And now you know how I do it. Whether or not it taught you how to replicate... I have no idea. But if there's enough interest I can probably do a quick how-to-draw-horses guide.

WARNING: the featured horse drawing up top is copyrighted (officially). While I don't care if you save it to your computer you must ASK PERMISSION if you are going to use it for anything. Any theft of that piece of artwork can result in legal action.

The other drawing is not officially copyrighted but Canadian law protects it anyways. Again, please contact me if you are going to use it for anything whatsoever.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This morning is beautiful

Everything around my home is dripping wet. The tree trunks are stained dark with water and finally they have started to bud as the grass greens with the new life that the long-needed rain finally brought. There's a light fog clinging to some areas and the sky is partly cloudy. We had a gorgeous sunrise this morning.

Despite my broken foot, I couldn't resist heading out on my crutches for a short walk to enjoy the silence, the singing birds, and the amazingly beautiful morning that I woke up to. The rain had washed even the smell of smoke out of the air.

The world around me could have easily been gone within the next couple of days. However, I am safe, and the farm's horses are safe, and so I am ecstatic to be alive, well, and safely at home.

For the past few days, there was a fire raging not far north of me. Everything has been so dry the past couple of months (with the slow thaw we had, everything just absorbed and went dry) and so this fire was eating grounds, crossing roads, jumping fire ditches and rivers. My county and town was in a state of emergency along with two other counties and countless other towns. People were losing their homes.

The farm was on alert to evacuate at moment's notice.

If the morning seemed beautiful to me, I can't imagine how it seemed to the horses. This topic/discussion is about evacuation plans.

The horses were caught, brushed, had their legs wrapped in preparation for travel and stalled. We loaded hay into the big horse trailer along with eight buckets (one for each horse), horse first aid kits, people first aid kits, grain, and extra lead ropes and halters. We cleaned it out, filled the tires as they were low on air, and hooked it up to the truck. We scoured the barn and loaded anything priceless or valuable (like the 5000$ barrel racing saddle that's 30 years old) into the truck. All medicines needing refrigeration were put in an electric cooler and the cooler plugged in, ready to load into the truck at any notice.

We prepared tags with the farm's name, address, and the owner's phone number on it along with the horse's name and clipped them to the horses' halters. Horses were to stay in their stalls in case they decided to stir up trouble in the field if it was suddenly time to go, with light turnout for a couple hours in pairs into the indoor arena where we laid out hay for them to munch.

For the most part, they were all just restless from being stalled too long except for the Thoroughbred gelding I ride, Willow. He was extremely uncomfortable with the tenser atmosphere, the reek of smoke, and the sudden change of schedule. Poor boy. He was beside himself with nerves the whole time and I can only imagine the nap he's having this morning when we were finally able to let them out as the fire is 90% extinguished.

We had a plan to load him last should we have to go, and we had a plan to get him in there quickly. He was the only one nervous about loading.

The farm also had a place to go in case of evacuation, and had plans made with that farm owner to house the eight horses.

All in all, it was solid and quickly put together. We had plans in place before hand. We have plans for fire escape, tornados, or the need for quarantine.

What are your evacuation plans, should it ever come to it?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A good study

So I know some of you are wondering/have asked me in the past about barrel racing pictures and whatnot, what looks good and what doesn't and I was Googling today and found a great barrel racing turn and thought I would share it with you as a textbook example.

As you see, the rider is quiet and in balance, leaning out of the turn with quiet legs. The inside toe is turned down which is the only fault I see with this picture, but the hands are forward (doesn't look like she's clutching the horn at all) and she isn't hauling to the side or even really pulling on the inside rein. Her body language and weight is showing him where to go. You see the reins are loose but not flying or being flung anywhere and he's not set against them.

The horse himself looks very relaxed like he knows what he's doing and trusts his rider. His head is down and forward to work with the turn, not up and stiff or unnaturally low. His ears are back listening to his rider and in concentration. They aren't pinned and they aren't focusing on anything else because that horse is focused and comfortable in his job.

He is bent very very well with his head in the right spot and his whole body wrapped around the turn. He is on the right lead and he's so close to the ground the girls' inside leg could probably touch. And he's well balanced enough that getting out of that lean and bend isn't going to be hard for him.

Nothing in the tack is too tight or pinching or looking like it's in any way hindering the horse and the two make a great pair. Check it out!

On the other side of the spectrum, we find a crappy rider. Not centered, leaning into the turn, hauling on the poor horse's mouth, flying out of the saddle, clutching the horn, heels up, and just all-round chaos. Compare the two horses and decide which one is more comfortable and which one is going to have a faster, closer turn.

Then decide which one likes its job more.

For the sake of comparison, I picked a picture where the horse is in almost the same stage of the turn as the previous picture.