Friday, March 9, 2018

Heads Above The Rest!; Exploring The Science and Art Of The Equine Head for Sculpting: Part 20


Welcome back to this exploration of the equine head, anatomically, biologically, and artistically. And here we are, at the end of this expansive 20–part series about it. It’s been quite a trek to be sure, but we’ve learned oodles of useful information that will inform our work in positive, provocative ways. So let’s think about a couple more issues before we wrap up…

Mulling It All Over

Being a realistic equine artist means more than simply parroting what we see with technical accuracy—perhaps it means a little bit more. Could it be then that a conscientious realistic equine artist needs to know more than simple structure? Don’t we also need to know the whys of that structure? It cannot be ignored that this additional insight gifts us with concepts relevant to our work while simultaneously providing context—and isn’t that critical for creating not only realistic work, but responsible work? In a sense then, our work speaks for this animal by representing values that can impact public sentiment. That's to say our work may go beyond mere representation and into culpability. Surely, we cannot ignore that our visuals endorse certain structures, and when it comes to the equine head, that influence is particularly important to weigh. As such, when we speak with a biological perspective of our work, we not only create a sounder basis for our creative choices, but a Voice that’s confident and clear. In other words, when we make our work an example of what it means to be an equine, do we not more completely express the fullness of his experience? There’s much more to equine realism than our reality—isn’t his reality just as important?

And that reality is rich and complex. Indeed, the equine has a curious and convoluted story to tell, full of tangents, dead ends, and an ultimate near–miss with oblivion—how unlikely he is! How fortunate we are he beat the odds—55 million years is a long time to play biological roulette and keep winning! It’s worth it then to consider what animal we’d sculpting if not for the happy chances that created the horse. He could so easily have disappeared altogether, or ended up with an entirely different anatomical blueprint, then what would we be sculpting? He’s here in his peculiar way purely thanks to serendipity, so we are blessed, aren’t we? That something so beautiful and gracious could have been produced by serendipity makes the fortuitousness of his presence all the more profound. It’s inspiring to remember that we’re lucky to have him around as his Fate could have been quite different. So maybe we can think of our work as both a celebration as well as an expression of our thankfulness for the existence of this splendid creature. 

And that being said, no where else on his body is this evolutionary story expressed so clearly than in his head, its every feature a direct result of nature’s design, perfectly built for his ecological niche. To understand its backstory and functions then lends a deeper appreciation of this animal, giving greater meaning to our efforts. If we can keep this close to heart as we work, we’ll come to better understand what it means to be a horse and that can inform our work in wonderful ways we may not anticipate. So perhaps being a realistic equine artist also means being an educator of sorts who helps others come to appreciate this beast on deeper levels deeper. The reality of this animal is far more than structure alone, and even his head embodies a story far more complicated than our value judgements. Therefore, only when we fully grasp this idea do we more fully mature as a realistic equine artist. Reconsidering it all, it's an incomplete understanding just copies what’s seen without due consideration of what we’re duplicating. To grasp the evolutionary history of his head then is to create with more validity and conscientiousness, and that speaks well of our endeavors.

To that end, it’s encouraged to continue with proactive research since there’s even more to the equine head than discussed in this series. Our work also benefits from our sensitivity for individual variation since each head is as singular and distinct as ours—no two heads are alike! And not only in terms of bony structure, but also fleshy structure since squishy bits can have varied manifestations between individuals, too. We have countless variations to play with, and what wonderful possibilities await us! Undoubtedly, remaining open–minded and resistant to formula will serve us well when it comes to sculpting the equine head, and that motivates us to do the same for the rest of his body. In this way, sculpting his head can teach us lessons that apply to our inspirations and skill sets, further expanding the potential of our efforts.

Better grasping the structure of his head not only makes our work more realistic, but more authentic, too. Indeed, we cannot truly appreciate its nature as related to a specific breed without also recognizing the special history of that breed that contributed to the shape of his head. This means our work not only improves when it comes to breed type, but helps to celebrate the particular history of a breed more faithfully, and that can have a positive influence on how our work is received. When we understand both the biological history not just of the genus, but also of a particular breed, even of a specific individual, that authority makes our work all the more genuine and our creative choices all the more reliable. We cannot deny that breed type factors heavily into our priorities, and what better way to pay homage to it than to fathom the whys of that novel structure?

What’s more, getting the head right on our sculptures is important for the appreciation of our work. It’s the first thing people gravitate towards and it’s the one thing that most impacts their response to it. That’s because it embodies not just the biological niche of the animal, but also his breed, gender, and age, and even more, his spirit and expression. Undoubtedly, if its structure is flawed, not only will our illusion be compromised, but its aesthetic appeal will be as well. Truly, there are few ways to turn people off than an incorrectly sculpted head. And since the head itself is so difficult to get right, getting it right speaks well of our talents—the better our heads, the better our standing. Likewise, if our sculpted heads are correct, people learn to better trust the totality of our work, too. Let's face it, if we can sculpt a convincing, accurate head, it’s likely the rest of the anatomical structures we sculpt are correct, too. One reaffirms the other. In addition to all this, we gain a pronounced advantage if our heads are more technically factual. Being so difficult to sculpt, many artists make errors so if we can avoid them, we’ve gained a measurable upper hand. To these ends, it certainly pays to take extra care when sculpting the head since it has so many implications for the rest of our work and even our standing in the field of equine realism. 


The equine head is truly a marvel of biological engineering and to understand it more thoroughly helps us not only to improve our work, but to also nurture a new appreciation of just how amazing the equine actually is. This creature has been shaped by nature with an economy of structure, yet look how beautiful pure function turned out! The horse is easily one of the loveliest creatures alive, yet this is accomplished by making so much of so little.

Hopefully this series has impressed just how truly important and wondrous is the equine head. To think that such a relatively small part of his body could be so pivotal yet so economical, beautiful, expressive, and capable of so much, all simultaneously, is extraordinary. How many other animals have such a boast? And as artists, we can highlight this novel combination to help others appreciate the biological marvel that is the horse, too.

And the good news is that as we progress in our work, sculpting the horse’s head can become easier, something not quite so daunting to sculpt. If we’re feeling a little frustrated or intimidated then—don’t worry. We’ve all been there! Each of us are a bit daunted each time we sculpt one since so much rests on its successful recreation. Just keep at it though—keep practicing! We’ll make mistakes, but that’s how we learn, right? If we use the right techniques, our job is made easier, and if our intentions are informed, we’re on the right track. And if we get stuck, there are always fixes. Never forget that what we create we can fix! We also have a plethora of options for bony and fleshy expression of his head—each head is unique so we’ll never get bored. To that end, stay curious to stay a conscientious, creative explorer, the most important habit we could nurture. The horse is an exquisite example of evolution, and his head is a perfect illustration of his biological story, so have fun exploring this most curious, quirky feature of this most marvelous animal! Those lucky stars were very good to us since now we get to honor this lovely creature in this splendid form! Until next time then…stay a proactive learner to stay ahead of the pack!

“An attitude of gratitude brings great things.” ~ Yogi Bhajan


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