Monday, June 27, 2011

Top Twenty Tidbits

And you thought we were done! When it comes to me, you should know by now that if it's worth doing, it's worth over-doing. No discreet little tastes from my kitchen, baby - it's an all-out banquet! Hey, I was trained by rats, what can I say?

On this list are random treats that add a novel new look at the subject, additional avenues of exploration, or flesh out our subject a bit more. So whether beginner, intermediate or advanced, these twenty goodies offer exciting new routes of learning!


1. THE EMPIRE OF EQUUS: THE HORSE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. 1974. ISBN: 0-498-01047-3. A neat old book filled with interesting biological information. Out of print. Got mine on eBay.

2. BRAIDING MANES AND TAILS; A VISUAL GUIDE TO 30 BASIC BRAIDS. 2007. ISBN: 978-1-58017-699-6. A really handy book! Big clear photos and illustrations really clarify all those complicated little mane and tail bits.

3. ANIMALS IN MOTION. 1957. ISBN: 0-486-20203-8. A blast from the past that's just as relevant today as it was yesteryear. These images really help to train you eye, so get the big book (shown here) and don’t settle for the smaller paperback.

4. POINTS OF THE HORSE. 7th Edition 1968. A book with interesting structural information, and loads of fun old photos. Out of print. Again, I got mine on eBay.

5. THE BIRDIE BOOK. 2001. This CD book is about 700 pages and packed with enough information to make your head explode. It focuses on equine psychology and "deep" horsemanship, both of which are relevant to sculpture for reasons you'll understand once you read it.

6. A PRACTICAL FIELD GUIDE FOR HORSE BEHAVIOR: THE EQUID ETHOGRAM. 2003. ISBN: 1-58150-090-4. This is a literal field guide for equine behavior, just like you'd get if you were to observe lions, elephants or whales - that kinda thing. We need to remember that horses are animals, with their own natural history and life agenda. It's well organized and full of photos, happily mostly of feisty, irresistible little ponies being their pony themselves. I also appreciate the unprejudiced perspective this book has towards horses.

7. UNDERSTANDING HORSE BEHAVIOR: AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO EQUINE PSYCHOLOGY AND SUCCESSFUL TRAINING. 2007. ISBN: 978-1-60239-051-5 or 1-60239-051-7. This is a wholly refreshing book! While it’s written from a horse-keeping and riding perspective, it’s relevant to art work because it addresses some important ideas regarding the differences between a happy horse and an unhappy one. It’s also one of the few resources that addresses how poor riding and training techniques can be psychologically destructive to horses, which then manifests as certain postures, expressions or behaviors - things we'd want to avoid in sculpture.

8. THE NATURE OF HORSES: EXPLORING EQUINE EVOLUTION, INTELLIGENCE AND BEHAVIOR. 1997. ISBN: 0-684-82768-9. Excellent quick-read that explores some fascinating biological facts about the equine. Even artists should see more than skin deep!

9. CLASSICAL SCHOOLING WITH THE HORSE IN MIND; GENTLE GYMNASTICS TRAINING TECHNIQUES. 2007. ISBN: 978-1-57076-374-8. I maintain that in order to be responsible sculptors, we must understand responsible horsemanship to avoid depicting harm in our work. So here you’ll find lots of wonderful insights and examples of true collection and happy, calm-minded horses. Forget about the show ring - this is correct dressage.

10. FOSSIL HORSES: SYSTEMATICS, PALEOBIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION OF THE FAMILY EQUIDAE. 1992. ISBN (paperback): 0-521-47708-5. I also maintain that to be responsible sculptors, we must first know the full natural history of our subject to understand - and respect - nature's design. For that, this book is indispensable, and though dry and very technical, it's a good read for the dedicated. I also recommend highly Dr. Deb Bennett's free PDF downloads from the ESI web site on the subject. 

11. TUG OF WAR: CLASSICAL VERSUS “MODERN” DRESSAGE; WHY CLASSICAL TRAINING WORKS AND HOW INCORRECT "MODERN" RIDING TECHNIQUE NEGATIVELY AFFECTS HORSES' HEALTH. 2009. ISBN: 978-1-57076-375-5. Another must-read. An artist is asked to understand the difference between responsible horsemanship and abusive exploitation for the sake of the subject, and this book arms us with the ability to do so.

 12. HOW TO DRAW ANIMALS. 1982. ISBN:0-399-50802-3. You never know where you’ll find some handy insights and this book is a nice surprise. It has a lot of comparative anatomy and the horse info, while simple, has some powerful visual tricks that are very handy. The species' comparisons also helps us to understand what makes a horse so, well - a horse.

13. SUSTAINABLE DRESSAGE. Again, I address the issue of horsemanship, and this web site does a really good job at discussing the difference between true self-carriage and false collection. This series, paired with the other recommended works on the subject, help to guide the sculptor away from the ubiquitous presence of false collection in the horse world, and thus in art. 

14. HORSE ANATOMY: A HANDBOOK FOR ARTISTS COMPRISING THE STUDY OF THE PROPORTION, STRUCTURE AND ACTION OF THE HORSE, AS COMPARED TO MAN, Lewis S. Brown. 1948. It would be easy to say this book is here purely for aesthetics because of all the beautiful illustrations - it easily could be! But the real reason is for all the useful concepts for sculpture and unique anatomical comparisons. Out of print. Got this one off eBay, too.

15. CONQUERORS: THE ROOTS OF NEW WORLD HORSEMANSHIP. 1998. ISBN: 0-9658533-0-6. Another resource that deals with horsemanship again...and so much more! A fascinating read.

16. THE HORSE: ITS ACTION AND ANATOMY. 1996. ISBN: 0-85131-645-X. This book could have been on any of the previous lists, but its more "arty" flavor makes it a better fit here. It's similar to "Calderon," but not so technical and instead has lots of discussion and illustrations about horse structure and motion designed specifically for the artist.

17. BRED FOR PERFECTION; SHORTHORN CATTLE, COLLIES, AND ARABIAN HORSES SINCE 1800. 2003. ISBN: 0-8018-7344-4. This is a must-read for all artists sculpting the equine, as it also should be for all breeders and judges of equines. It gently makes some critical points about breeding, purity, "points of type," market manipulation, propaganda and aesthetics.

 18. ROONEY’S GUIDE TO THE DISSECTION OF THE HORSE. 6th Edition 1994. ISBN: 0-960001152-3-4. This book definitely is a how-to guide - it even has a set of five microfiche pages of dissected areas to correlate with the text and drawings (not for the squeamish). Also included are instructions for converting a dissected hind limb into a specimen that demonstrates the stay apparatus!

 19. REIN POORTVLIET'S HORSES. 1978. ISBN: 1-55670-430-5. This is a wonderful book full of gorgeous paintings and drawings - very inspirational! It's also useful to remember that realism isn't necessarily best served with tight precision. Sometimes a looser approach in the right situation yields a better result.

20. INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HORSE BREEDS. 1995. ISBN: 0-8061-2753-8. This book is pretty exhaustive, and happily includes some little known, or rare breeds. What I like about it is that it reminds us there are a lot more options out there if we're willing to look beyond our little neck of the woods, or the show ring.

Collecting a reference library may seem like a daunting prospect, but it's really a lot of fun. Perusing used books stores for old gems, scouring local book stores for new releases, surfing the web for rare treasures, visiting garage and church sales for dusty tomes, combing through libraries for hidden discoveries all have provided many hours of enjoyment and an indispensable pile of knowledge.

More still, going on the hunt for the one rare nibble of revelation provides an incentive to keep footin' along the path and fuels curiosity for what's around the next corner. Indeed, as our exploration deepens so do our resources, and so a reference library is an ever-evolving resource. 

Regardless, I should mention that these lists were based on my own assumptions about what I think you'd find helpful. The fact is that it's your own special journey to find what will prove most valuable to you. We each have our own unique experience. Just keep your mind open and partake of your search with enthusiasm, since your breadcrumbs are there for the discovering!

And while it may seem like a lot of work and expense, I can honestly say that every bit of information I've absorbed as a result has been singularly critical for my development, and the cumulative effect of each niblet is nothing short of amazing. And the same is waiting for you! When we invest ourselves in something we love, learning becomes a joyful reveling and we come to hunger for more. In this way, we transform into pro-active learners and find that this new mind-set propels us towards unexpected rewards otherwise unattainable.

So go out there, have fun and see what you can unearth! Who knows what dollop of revelation is waiting just for you!

"I am mindful to allow for the joy of exploration and discovery within the framework of each of my works." ~ Tom Francesconi

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