Friday, June 24, 2011

Intermediate's Top Ten

In continuation with the custom-made anatomy reference lists, here's the listing designed for intermediate sculptors. It may be curious why I didn't just jump to the advanced list. If this occurred to you - excellent! It's perhaps the single most important pondering for a future career in equine sculpture. Why? Because of what that pondering implies: transition. 

We all go through the intermediate stage, and spend a great deal of time in it. What's more, these are the most pivotal years in our development because it's during this transition that we shape our prerogatives. This stage is so formative, in fact, that these prerogatives nearly are impossible to fully reroute later. All of this means that intermediates must balance a precarious mix of enthusiasm and caution.

Yet the needs of an intermediate are particularly difficult to meet. In a sense, we're too big to be lifted onto our horse, but not big enough to get on by ourselves - we need a mounting block. But most anatomical resources are designed either for the basic or advanced level, thus leaving intermediates to fare for themselves in the chaos of interpretation and conflicting information. This precisely is why so many get stuck and become unable to advance beyond this stage.

Therefore, the question isn't, "What is it that intermediates know?" It's, "Do intermediates know enough to recognize what they don't know?" Which brings us to...

"Knowing enough" doesn't involve just anatomical knowledge, either. Our knowledge base only can take us so far, since knowing more information isn't going to improve our sculpting, or our understanding. Of more significance is self-awareness, and the eagerness by which introspection is practiced. Knowingly or not, it's our internal baggage that prohibits us from moving forward. Our conceit, our insecurities, our prejudices, our ignorance - they all conspire to weigh us down and skew our perceptions, preventing us from advancing. Only those able to let go of their fears and egos can jump to the next stage. Which brings us to...

The intermediate stage is a delicate and vulnerable metamorphosis, an intricate web of back and forth learning, judgments and decisions. Despite our meanderings, however, we all come to a fork in the road - a choice between two paths. Which path we pick will predetermine our future, much like how a tree grows. What is the choice? It's the conscious decision between the easy road of "I know all I need to know," and the harder road of "I am open to more, even if I learn I'm wrong.

Unfortunately, the easy road is a powerful temptation, and those who chose it strike a heavy bargain: stasis. Such sculptors become armed with just enough information to sabotage, but not enough self-awareness to escape. Being so, this path cements rigid sensibilities, and broods arrogance and reactionary thinking. It's no surprise then that these folks typically flock to conventional dogma and comfortable familiarity, where they remain forever spinning their wheels. This is the reason why this path always leads to artistic plateaus.

In contrast, the "open road" constantly builds  and crosses new bridges into new territories of understanding. Remaining a perpetual student, we learn not to take things for granted and don't accept ideas at face value. We question what we encounter, especially our own knowledge base. In this way, we cultivate the necessary humility that keeps us receptive and open to change. Humility also reaffirms that life is complex and diverse, so we come to realize that to truly understand the subject, we must keep moving forward. This is the reason why this path always leads to artistic growth.

So in this spirit, these ten references have been chosen for the intermediate student. They represent more cake than the novice references, but not as rich as advanced resources while, at the same time, offering morsels for the next course.

 1. HOW YOUR HORSE MOVES: A UNIQUE VISUAL GUIDE TO IMPROVING PERFORMANCE. ISBN-10: 0715329928 or ISBN-13: 978-0715329924. Beautiful photos, clear illustrations and a good distillation of current thought about equine biomechanics. This book ratchets up the visuals while leaving you hungry for more!

2. AN ATLAS OF ANIMAL ANATOMY FOR ARTISTS. 1956. ISBN: 0-486-200082-5. This book is so common in many an equine artist's library that it's often just referred to as "the Ellenberger book." (You can tell mine is well worn!) One caveat: the depicted front hoof is contracted, so don't use it for a shape reference.

3. PRINCIPLES OF CONFORMATION ANALYSIS-VOL. I-III. 1992. Included for the important biomechanical, horsemanship and philosophical concepts this series presents.

 4. HORSE GAITS, BALANCE AND MOVEMENT: THE NATURAL MECHANICS OF MOVEMENT COMMON TO ALL BREEDS. 1993. ISBN: 0-87605-955-8. A book with helpful insights on motion, and makes a useful companion to the Principles of Conformation Analysis, Vol. I-III, #3.

5. HORSE STRUCTURE AND MOVEMENT. 3rd Edition 1993. ISBN: 0-85131-547-X. Discusses anatomy and biomechanics and related subjects, with good diagrams and illustrations of handy landmarks.

6. ANIMAL ANATOMY FOR ARTISTS: THE ELEMENTS OF FORM. 1994. ISBN:  0-19-514214-4. Useful text and diagrams with lots of unusual details, making it a nice addition. Plus it has wonderful wing diagrams for those wanting to sculpt a pegasus.

7. MAKING NATURAL HOOF CARE WORK FOR YOU. 2003. ISBN: 0-9658007-7-6. Lots of useful ideas and images of healthy feet for sculpting references, particularly of the palmar foot.

 8. THE VISIBLE HORSE: ANATOMY IN MOTION 1 (DVD, though shown is my old VHS). 2000. This video lets you solidify your visualization techniques, and makes a good companion to How your Horse Moves: A Unique Visual Guide to Improving Performance, #1.

 9. EQUIKENTM WORKSHOP. 5-day sculpting anatomy class through Zahourek Systems. Take the class - don't try to do the take-home version. You'll glean much more benefit through a guided lesson with a good instructor, and interaction with the other students.

10. ANATOMY OF THE HORSE FOR ARTISTS. 2003. ISBN: 963-09-4463-4. In Hungarian, German and English, this book is an expansion of the Cyclopedia Anatomicae from the beginner list, but with lots of additional useful ideas and illustrations.

And there ya go! These intermediate years also are a good time to add workshops to the calendar, and you can find some here, here and here. Being in the workshop environment has an immeasurable positive effect! Indeed, follow along with Danielle Feldman of Feldman Studio as she takes a week-long equine sculpting workshop through the AAEA!

Also during this time, it's useful to begin exploring subjects outside of standard anatomy, such as  equine behavior and psychology, horsemanship, dentistry, and farrier arts to learn how each affects the horse for better or worse. These steps will set the stage for advanced levels of understanding.

Most of all, however, intermediates need to continue asking questions, especially when they believe they've reached the fulfillment of their goals. In fact, the moment an intermediate feels comfortable with a knowledge base, these questions are imperative:
  • Is what I already know truly credible?
  • Where and how do I find disproving, or opposing ideas?
  • How do I weigh those ideas that challenge my existing knowledge base?
  • What errors in thinking and exploration lead me to a flawed knowledge base in the first place?
Throughout this on-going process, the conscientious intermediate begins to grasp the weight of this art form: we aren't only accountable to our craft, but we're accountable to our subject, as well. In this realization, we become ready for the next stage of our journey - the advanced level. So stay tuned next time for the Top Ten advanced resources!

"Who am I, and where am I going? You are the answer to this question. You are here to ask the question, and to be the answer." ~ Dr. Michael Beckwith

Related Posts with Thumbnails