Drawing horses is fun, but illustrating them in action is pure joy! When you show movement in a drawing your whole picture will come to life. Most of us start out drawing them in a stand still position. And that is good, especially in the beginning. It helps us to get the proportions right. But once you know proper horse proportions and you have mastered all the body parts…it’s time for action.
Horses are most beautiful when they are moving. Did you ever notice that horses are prettier when they are misbehaving? Yes I said it! This is the artist in me talking. I didn't say they were more fun to ride that way. I’m saying they are gorgeous when they strike dramatic poses, which is what they often do when they are behaving badly. As an artist you just gotta love it!
Think about some of the most attractive poses a horse can take. Running, trotting, prancing, rearing, head tossing, bucking, spooking, shying and fighting to name a few. These action poses give horse drawings interest and strong story telling drama.
The fastest way to start drawing horses in action is to play with stick figures. Stick figure practice lessons are stepping stones to masterpieces. The goal it is play with lines and angles that show movement and action. Really think about how a horse moves.
When a horse is bucking, where is his head? What would his front legs be doing and what would be a fun angle for the back legs to take? When a horse is tossing his head how does that affect the mane? What would a startled horse be doing with his feet and how would the neck be turned? Can you show even more expression and movement with the eyes and ears?
It is the answers to questions like these that will give you great horse action poses. Start with stick figures. Will the chest and rump be even or will one be higher than the other? Is the head held high or low? Is there an arch in the neck? Is the back straight, hunched or flexed? How many feet does the horse have planted on the ground to maintain his balance? Is one hip or shoulder dropped down?
When you are drawing horses in action you are dealing with angles that can be challenging. That is why beginners start out with a simple side view. It reduces the challenge. This is a trick that I have found very helpful when dealing with odd angles.
Pretend the horse is made of glass and you can see through to the other side. Go ahead and lightly sketch the leg that would be hidden from view. Draw a line from one hip joint to the other (see yellow highlight). Do the same for the shoulders. These lines will act as guide posts to help you properly size and place legs that are on the far side of your horse. Remember that legs on the far side of a horse will be slightly smaller than the ones up front and closest.
Another big challenge is dealing with foreshortened limbs. Foreshortening is what happens when an object is coming at you, either straight on or at an angle. This is common for hoofs and legs. When an object is foreshortened you will not be able to see the whole thing. Not only will part of it be hidden from view, but the part of the object that is closest will seem distorted because it will be larger than the portion toward the back.
To wrap you brain around foreshortening try this trick. Let’s say you are drawing a foreshortened leg. Lightly sketch the leg as a simple cylinder at whatever angle your leg is coming from. It might take a couple of tries, but you can draw a cylinder at an angle.
Now draw a stick skeleton of circles and lines to represent the joints and leg bones inside the cylinder. Now that you have a stick figure for a guideline, erase the cylinder and draw in the rest of the leg. Remember the golden rule. Your eraser is your friend. Sketch lightly, you’ll be erasing alot. Keep at it until you get it just right.
Draw lots and lots of stick figures in different action poses. Be playful. Draw crazy stuff like horses rolling and prancing and biting each other. After you have experimented with a few creative poses, take your favorites and turn them into full blown drawings.
Drawing horses in action is fun and rewarding. Don’t be afraid of the challenge. Draw lots of stick figures. Keep it fun and don’t take your sketches too seriously. Your horse drawings will progress faster if you stay relaxed and easy about it.