Drawings and sculptures made with this simple horse drawing process:
Learning how to draw a horse is a process. This simple study guide is designed as a precursor to my horse art courses, and lays out a great deal of information that can help you find the accurate ratios and measurements for your horse drawings. On top of that, this guide goes into some detail on converting your horse head outline into early plans for a clay horse head sculpture!
Pictured is a selection of horse drawings and sculptures that were made utilizing the techniques on this page. I feel that starting with simple horse drawings is a prerequisite for making a horse sculpture; too much detail can bog down the process. Getting a feel for the layout in two dimensions with some detail and shading is necessary, and can really help when putting things together in three dimensions, but you don’t have to go overboard in this early stage of the process.
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My Personal Sketch Tools:
- Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser - Extra Large
- Price: $1.65
I like to use wire bound sketch books for general sketching and drawing. I love the really nice sketchbooks (and have quite a few of them as well!), but find I’m more willing to try out different ideas and experiment more when I’m not worried about ruining a page in a nice sketchbook!
I have a range of graphite and charcoal pencils in different hardness ratings, some Verithin Prismacolor colored pencils for adding color (not typically needed for sculpture concept drawings), and a kneaded eraser as these are the most versatile erasers for different media.
How To Draw A Horse Head
1. Use reference materials. Some people work better from live, animated objects while others work well from photo references, magazines, or books. Artist anatomical books like “An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists” by W. Ellenberger show the bone structure, muscle structure, and other important aspects of the horse and other animals, as well as more in depth key relative measurements. See books at Blick Art Materials.
See with your eyes, not with your memory. You may be tempted to change parts of the horse based on what you remember. Once you have enough experience with the subject you’re working with, there is more room for experimentation. But when starting out, try to work within the confines of realism in order to gain a better perspective of the subject.
Start with a SIMPLE horse drawing: sometimes the simpler the drawing, the easier it is to see details when converting to 3D. I find that line drawings are far easier to work from than more realistic drawings – but this is very individual and experimentation is needed to find what works best for you!
Simple Horse Drawing – Points of the Horse
2. This image shows some of the more important points of the horse’s head and neck areas.
Note on the crest and other details – depending on your audience, some will see flaws in certain artistic choices. For instance, an over-developed crest looks great in old Romantic period paintings, but now will draw some derision for over feeding a horse, or for promoting over flexion and a broken third vertebra. Don’t let these criticisms limit your creativity, but be aware of the possible negative comments and be ready to relay your artistic choices (without defensiveness!).
How To Draw A Horse Face: Relative Measurements for Accurate Details
Once you have your reference materials, lay out your simple horse drawing with the main positioning and muscle structure outlined. Keep in mind that this drawing will be your main guideline for the sculpture, but don’t add too much detail – when you start measuring, changes will be made and you don’t want to back-track a lot.
Relative Measurements of a Horse Head Outline
3. The following measurements are very close approximations. These measurements are slightly different for different breeds of horses, but are a great general reference.
A (head), D (neck), and E (the distance between the withers and the point of the shoulder) are typically equal in length. In draft horses, D is slightly shorter (larger head, thicker body, shorter neck)
B and F are typically the same length, and are approximately 3/5 the length of A, D, or E. In english thoroughbreds, B is slightly longer (longer face, thinner neck). C is approximately 2/5 the length of A.
Creating an Armature from a Simple Horse Drawing
4. Once you have your simple horse drawing, you need an idea of how the sculpture will be put together. The first step is to decide what the actual dimensions of the sculpture will be. Keep in mind that clay shrinks when it is fired, so the measurements you use to build your sculpture will end up larger than the finished sculpture. A good average for figuring clay shrinkage is approximately 10-15%. Any clay that you buy should have a description of its firing temperatures and the shrinkage. The measurements in the image are in inches.
Sample measurements for converting a simple horse drawing into a horse sculpture
Horse head outline showing placement of the rigid armature in the proposed clay horse sculpture
By comparing the horse head outline above/left to one of my actual sculptures, you can envision where the rigid armature was located during construction
The armature consists of (1) a wooden base, (2) a 1″ pvc male adapter attached to the base using a 1″ metal female adapter, (3) a 1″ pvc pipe cut to size – in this case approximately 9.5″, (4) wadded up newspaper shaped to form the basic structure using masking tape.
The newspaper and tape are used to build up the form (clay sculptures cannot be built as a solid form) because any newspaper that cannot be removed before firing will burn away in the firing process. When constructing larger sculptures, a thicker pvc pipe can be used for added strength.
Note on horse head sculptures like “Grulla,” “Friesian,” and others: Creating these artworks using the full armature is much easier, as the bottom of the sculpture is open. There’s no armature hole to repair after firing like you’ll see on the Panther Sculpture demo. Note on small horse head sculptures like “Blaze” and “Silver Grace”: the light gray newspaper fill (4) is all that’s needed, no rigid armature (1-3).
Some of Jen's Sculptures That Only Required A Newspaper Armature:
The bronze-colored sculpture above, “Blaze”, is featured in my free horse sculpture class!
My Armature I Built To Convert a Horse Head Outline Drawing To a Clay Sculpture
This is the armature build that I use for my clay sculptures. The panther sculpture class goes into full detail on how to build this clay sculpture armature. Most of the items can be found at the local hardware store.
This armature is not needed for smaller pieces, like the horse head sculptures above, in which I used newspaper without the rigid armature.
1. The pvc pipe (3) must be a couple of inches short from where it intersects with the sculpture, otherwise when the piece starts to dry, the pvc will break through the clay.
2. When building a sculpture with such a heavy overhang (the head being so far away from the pvc pipe) it is advisable to build the top of the sculpture with thin walls. Clay sculpture walls should never be thicker than 1″, otherwise the clay won’t dry properly and is more likely to have air pockets, either of which will make the clay explode in the kiln. In the case of a sculpture like this, build the bottom section all the way up to the crest of the neck where the pvc pipe intersects with the clay with thicker walls (approximately 3/4″ to 1″).
This will add weight to the bottom of the sculpture to help it to stand upright. Build the head with thinner walls (about half an inch, no thinner than a quarter inch) to keep the weight down for the top portion of the sculpture. This has two benefits: 1. When the sculpture is finished it will not be top heavy and 2. When the piece is almost finished it is less likely that the head will droop or fall off of the neck, thus wrecking your work.
See more demonstrations, including full instructions for building, firing, and finishing a large panther sculpture (with armature) and a small horse head sculpture (without armature) in my art classes.