Monday, January 8, 2018

Heads Above The Rest!; Exploring The Science and Art Of The Equine Head for Sculpting: Part 16


Introduction

Hello again and welcome back to this 20part series exploring the equine head from an anatomical, evolutionary, and artistic perspective. Finding resources that make this combination are hard to come by, and only illustrate just how interdisciplinary our task actually is in equine realism. To create an effective sculpture then we first have to be an informed sculptor, and we do this with research and field study. There's so much more to all this than simply sculpting what we see! We have to See first. And it's this Sight that will guide us towards stronger compositions and deeper narratives.

Now specifically regarding his head, portraying it in clay is no easy task simply because so much about his noggin is a study of nuance and balance—nothing is extreme. Yet while this austerity of form makes the functions of the equine head more efficient and foolproof, it also makes our task that much more difficult. Indeed, the equine head is arguably one of the hardest things to capture artistically due to its technical complexity and rich source of expression. In particular, it’s so easy to do too little and especially to do too much, spinning off sideways at any given point. Plus we have to render our subject's noggin both technically accurate yet also organically “messy,” and that’s a tenuous juggling act. Truly, we have to walk a tightrope of framework and measure, and know it or not, it’s something that’s constantly challenging us even in those pieces that seem to come together easily. 

What’s more, our art is the creation of our fallible human hands and so errors are bound to pop up—but not all errors are alike! In fact, we have to contend with a whole slew of them. Specifically, we have technical errors, or those that indicate errors in anatomical information for the species or genus. For instance, we may place the structures of the zygomatic arches in a wrong way. But we also have to factor in those errors that can only happen in art. For example, we may inadvertently sculpt in an extra zygomatic arch. (And we're not even factoring in conformation, breed type, age and gender type yet!) Being so, the ability to See possible errors in our work is dependent on our interpretation of what we observe with the least possible unconscious skews—of having a more objective Eye. In this sense, our improvement can be amplified when we approach our efforts in a way that minimizes what can go wrong rather than what can go right because we'll always be creating contrary to life unless we attend to our blindspots along the way. In other words, our blindspots are a more powerful force in our work than our strong points. In this way then, awareness of this difference between reallife errors and artistic errors helps us to pinpoint problems better since one is a functional flaw whereas the other is an artistic fiction. 

So recognizing some common artistic errors can get us one step closer to the realism we desire. Yet that’s another tricky two-step because—know it or not—we're always immersed in our blindspots. That's what makes them blindspots! And each of us has a unique array of them, as characteristic of our work as our artistic style. Actually, in this way, our blindspots are part of our artistic style by helping to define our work just as much as anything else. Nonetheless, this means that our blindspots are often hard to identify in order to purge. Because they exist under our radar, how do we discover something we can't even See? What we need is objectivity—a basis of clinical comparison between our efforts and our resources. This is where lots of field study, accurate measurement systems, and artistic exercises that retrain our eyes to more correctly interpret both our subject, references photos, and our work.

But on that note, we should also understand that doing so entails three separate skills sets which are then amalgamated together into a fourth. What does that mean? Well, interpreting life study, photos, and our own sculpture requires three different perspectives, or keenness of Sight. For example, being able to interpret technical accuracy in our sculpture is entirely different than doing so in life study only because we can take much more granted with the living animal. That is to say each perspective entails different abilities since the features we need to duplicate accurately are a given in the real thing, open to debate in reference photos, and wholly questionable in our own work. Each one simply represents a different degree of uncertainty. Yet once we've developed these three perspectives, we also have to develop a fourth: their combination so we can effectively transition between our study, resources, and clay as we go back and forth between them as we work. This is one of the reasons why equine realism is so difficult—it demands an unusual degree of discipline and fixation to get it right. Equine realism isn't something we just do—it's something we become dedicated to doing.

For these reasons then, let’s discuss some common artistic, or fictional errors seen in sculpture with the equine head. So often knowing how we can go wrong can help us get things right. So here we go!…

Common Errors In Sculpture

Despite all our different styles and prerogatives, a series of artistic faults often pop up in realistic equine sculpture. They’re understandable though, since so much can go haywire so quickly when it comes to this difficult aspect of our subject. For some insights then, here are the most common artistic errors:
  • Trapdoor mouth: When the mouth is opened at the chin like a trapdoor rather than at the joint behind the eye. 
  • Bent jaw: With an open mouth, when the jaw bar underline doesn't continue through to the lower incisors in an unbroken curve.
  • Alligator mouth: A mouth opened too profoundly, beyond the fleshy limits of an equine, making the head resemble that of an alligator.
  • Displaced jaw: A jawbone placed either too far forwards or too far backwards in relation to the ear and its “button” with the zygomatic arches.
  • Displaced zygomatic arches: When these formations are not aligned with the back of the mandible, its condyloid process, or the ear.
  • Shrunken zygomatic arches: When these arches are sculpted to small or too short, causing displacement with the back of the jaw or the placement of the ear.
  • Swollen zygomatic arches: When these arches are sculpted too big and bulky.
  • Ridged zygomatic arches: When these arches aren’t rounded but have abrupt, ridged, or squared edges.
  • Tilted zygomatics: From the front: when these arches are misaligned to be on the same plane, making the forehead too broad. Or they're too up and down in relation to each other, spun clockwise or counterclockwise away from their correct orientation. In reality, the upper “U” angles inward with the forehead whereas the lower “Y” protrudes from that, forming a planed angle when seen from the front.
  • Island zygomatic arches: When these arches don’t properly blend with the rest of the cranium, but end abruptly as though they’re “floating” on top.
  • Incomplete zygomatics: When these portions are missing necessary cranial features.
  • Asymmetry: Bilaterally mismatched skull features when seen from above, below, from the back, or from the front. The head should be as bilaterally symmetrical as possible. 
  • Mis–planed head: Errors in planing that lack the characteristic angles and curves specific to the species, breed, or individual.
  • Twisted head: When the median line is spun to one side, causing the muzzle to be spun on the axis of the skull, when seen from the front. Not to be confused with asymmetrically moved nostrils.
  • Crooked head: When the median line is crooked, causing the internal axis of the sculpted head to be crooked as well. This also throws off bilateral symmetry of the matched cranial features.
  • Mis–aged head: When the head structure doesn’t match the intended age of the sculpture; the skull’s shape and features don’t exhibit accurate age characteristics. For example, absent tooth bumps on a sculpture of a 3–year–old or a 25–year–old with the head structure of an 8–year–old. Also common on foal sculptures when they have heads with adult–like development. It also happens on sculptures of older horses as they lack the cranial features produced by old age. 
  • Hammerhead: Overly protruding frog–like eyes, especially when viewed from the front. Often the entire brow ridge and zygomatic arches are enormous as well, like a Neanderthal version of Equus. 
  • Ghoulish head: Overdone and protruding bony development of the skeletal features of the head, especially through the brows, zygomatic arches, and teardrop bones. This often happens when we get carried away with sculpting.
  • Block head: The skull lacks the elegant rectangular, slender cranial structure of Equus (when seen from the front) to adopt a chunky, bulky, thickset structure more like a bull’s head.  
  • Oversized head: A head that’s proportionally too big, beyond some of the natural variation we can see in life. This often happens when we become too distracted by sculpting to check our proportions constantly. As a general rule, the head, from the tip of the muzzle to behind the ears should be about as long as from the point of the withers to the point of the croup, or the point of the withers to the point of shoulder.
  • Fluted head: When seen from above, when the back of the head is too broad and the width of the muzzle is too narrow. Or, likewise, when then depth of the jaw is too big and the depth of the muzzle is too short, often with a concave nasal bone and convex jaw bars as often seen in "extreme headed" Arabian sculptures.
  • Tiny head: Less often a sculpted head will be too small in proportion to the body, often seen on Arabian sculptures. In life, this will make it difficult for the animal to process enough food, water, and air for his mass, or present dentistry problems. It also throws off biomechanics which depends on the head's weight at the end of the spine. 
  • Fudged head: When the skeletal or cartilagenous structures aren’t portrayed accurately, most often seen with the zygomatic arches, the eyes, ears, and the muzzle. 
  • Mis–fleshed head: Made up cranial musculature. The head has some pretty distinct fleshy structures we need to keep in mind even though their manifestation does vary between individuals or breeds a bit.
  • Meaty head: When the planes of the head are incorrect, most often in the area of the mid–cheek, creating a blocky, chunky head. The equine head is actually quite slender flowing from the nasal bones when seen from the front, and elegantly constructed.
  • Puffy Head: When the musculature is sculpted too thickly and bulbous, creating a bloated effect. Head musculature is a series of thin straps that lay flat on the skull, with only the orbit muscles, muzzle muscles, Buccinators and the Massaters being more robust. There’s nothing about the equine head that’s so bloated and puffy. Also, the equine head is very 3D in that there are many hollow areas that depress inwards towards the median plane.
  • Incorrect axis: When a convex or sub–convex head lacks the internal convex axis of the skull, merely having a roman nose added to the nasal bone. Likewise, the same for a convex internal axis.
  • Incorrect nasal bone: A nasal bone that’s blocky, straight, or ridged with harsh edges, or with a sharp groove down the front, or perched on the profile rather than being seated into the skull, or continues down between the nostrils. Instead, the nasal bone has a delicate hourglass shape with rounded edges, and the median groove is a subtle indentation. It also ends well before the comma cartilages.
  • Fleshy bone: Inadequate sculpting technique that makes what should appear hard and bony appear fleshy, squishy, and soft. This flaw is often seen with the teardrop bone along with the nasal bone and zygomatic arches. Much of the equine head is subcutaneous bone, so we need to pay attention to what’s bony and what’s fleshy. 
  • Ice cream cone head: A head that’s unnaturally too broad through the forehead and jaws, paired with a muzzle that’s too small, creating too strongly wedge-shaped head. 
  • Plank head: A head that’s too thin, as seen from the front, beyond the thinness sometimes seen naturally with certain individuals, Iberians, or drafter heads. 
  • Slashed head: A sculpting technique that’s clumsy or too extreme, exhibiting slashes and gouges where fleshy softness and subtlety is necessary. 
  • Ignored head axis: When a sculpted head doesn’t account for the internal axis thereby creating a misshapen, inaccurate head. For instance, simply adding an arched nasal bone to make a head more convex, but ignoring the convex axis of the head itself that would bend the lower face downwards. As a result the EENA is straight, but with an arching nasal bone, which is incorrect. Likewise, making a head more dished—or convex—by gouging down the nasal bone and adding a dome to the forehead, creating a dolphin–like head. Sometimes the jaw bars are also trimmed down, creating a fluted, seahorse–like head. However, in reality the dished head usually has a convex head axis that lifts the lower face upwards. Always remember that the shape of the skull is created by its internal axis, not by the nasal bone alone.
  • Knife bars: Jaw bars that are too narrow, knife-thin and sharp rather than rounded.
  • Parallel bars: Jaw bars that are too parallel to each other. Instead, they form a long triangle, wide at the ramus and narrow behind the chin.
  • Expanded bars: Jaw bars that are too wide apart, causing the head to be disfigured as seen from the front, usually making it boxy and bloated. 
  • Tilted jaw bars: When the bottom of the jaw bars angle outwards, giving the bottom of the head a fluted look when seen from the front.
  • Off–type head: The head is often an important point of breed type so we have to pay special attention here. Yet head type is also highly vulnerable to fads and fashion, things that can steer a breed to become off–type such as Arabian–like heads on Iberians, Quarter Horse heads on “classic” Appaloosas, Saddlebred–like heads on Morgans, or Arabian–like heads on Quarter Horses. Likewise, “dry” features on a draft horse, Quarter Horse muscling on an Arabian, or Teke “snake–eyes” on a Welsh Cob. So we have many issues to weigh here. The choice is ours, but that choice is best informed by equine biology than simply our aesthetics.
  • Type exaggeration: We run into ethical problems with breed rhetoric and artistic stylization, too, most notably with convex heads such as with the Arabian. A head that’s too extreme—too deeply dished—will have problems with breathing and dentistry that will compromise the well-being and performance of the animal. The same can be said of tiny muzzles and giant eyes, again often seen on the Arabian. Yet we routinely see extreme dishes, enormous eyes, and tiny muzzles on sculptures, even absurdly so as a function of artistic exaggeration. We need to be careful despite our tastes because what we recreate, we validate. 
  • Bony flesh: Likewise, making what should appear fleshy look like hard bone. Often found in the Masseter, Buccinators, nostrils, and the muzzle. Always pay attention to fleshy details and texture. 
  • Tilted teardrop bone: When the teardrop bone is spun clockwise or counterclockwise away from its correct orientation, away from the EENA. Now granted, some horses have a masseteric ridge that bends slightly upwards to the zygomatic arches, this being an individualized feature, but if the entire ridge is rotated, that’s a problem.
  • Displaced teardrop bone: A tear drop bone that’s placed too high towards the ear or forehead, or too low towards the nostril or jaw. 
  • Meaty teardrop bone: When it's too robust or blocky. Instead, this is a delicate ridge, not a robust, meaty, bulky, or bulbous protrusion. It also blends with the surrounding facial areas and the bottom of the zygomatics and “button” of the ramus, and doesn’t end abruptly with sharp lines.
  • Atrophied teardrop bone: When this is too frail and small.
  • Misaligned mouth: When the slit of the mouth, or the line of the lips, doesn’t mirror the EENA enough. Nonetheless, keep individuality in mind since sometimes there may be a some variation. 
  • Dropped mouth: A mouth placed too low, towards the chin.
  • Distorted muzzle: When the structure of the muzzle isn’t consistent to the underlaying skeletal structure of the maxilla or mandible. 
  • Shrunken muzzle: When the muzzle is sculpted unnaturally too small, when seen from the side or front, often as an exaggeration of breed type or flawed proportional measurement. In the case of draft horses, in particular, this is a serious fault since, in life, the animal wouldn’t be able to adequately process the air, food, and water needed for his mass. Drafters should always have sizable muzzles to accommodate their biological requirements.
  • Lip–like muzzle: When the boxy upper lip is misshapen into something rounded and protruding, like the upper lip of a person or camel. Often the lower lip is malformed, too, to accommodate, further giving the muzzle a lip–like appearance.
  • Misplaced nostrils: Placement of the nostrils too low towards the chin, or sliding forwards on the nostril away from the eye (resembling an anteater), or sometimes too high towards the nasal bone, or backwards towards the eye (resembling a pig).
  • Meaty nostrils: Nostril rims that are too thick, hefty, and meaty rather than more delicate.
  • Ridged nostrils: Nostrils that have a squared–off edge rather than rounded and smooth, and so don't look soft and fleshy.
  • Pebbled nostrils: When the rims of the nostrils are “pilled,” "chattered," ragged, or bumpy rather than being smooth and even.
  • Knife nostrils: When the rims of the nostrils are too sharp. Instead, the front rim, the comma cartilage, is rounded and broader while the back rim is softly rounded and thinner, but neither are knife sharp.
  • Pulled nostrils: When the bottom of the nostril, where the two rims meet at the bottom, is stretched downwards too far down on the upper lip, often blending with the upper lip rather than having that distinctive terminal rim.
  • Frilled nostrils: When the rims of the nostril are frilly and ruffled when they should be smooth and even.
  • Flat nostrils: When seen from the front, the “V” at the top is angled too far away from the nasal bone and the lower rim isn’t protruding enough, creating a flatter plane, distorting the proper shape of the muzzle from the front.
  • Inverted nostrils: When the upper “V” is angled more outwards while the bottom rim is angled inwards, creating an inverse plane of what we see in life. 
  • Inconsistent nostrils: When they aren’t functioning consistently to what the sculpture is depicting such as a galloping horse with relaxed nostrils or a sleepy horse with flared nostrils. We have to keep appropriate respiration, exertion, and expression in mind.
  • Flute nostril: When a flared nostril is sculpted with an evenly billowed and expanded triangular flute. In reality, the overlying musculature shapes a flared flute into a series of complex curves, depressions, and bulges.
  • Human teeth: The equine incisor isn’t shaped or textured like a person’s tooth that’s short, straight, and square. Instead, sculpted incisors need the characteristic shapes and specific eccentricities to be convincing, being more rectangular and curved. 
  • Inaccurately–shaped teeth: Teeth not shaped properly according to what type they are. For example, rectangular incisors and round grinders.
  • Mis–aged Teeth: When teeth don’t match the sculpture’s intended age. For example, foals having adult teeth or adults having foal–like teeth, or similarly, having a dark dapple grey color on a sculpture when its tooth formation is of a 20–year–old horse. Teeth are an important detail with an open mouth so we need to pick an age for such a sculpture when we do so. We also need to think about appropriate details such as shape and slant along with accompanying features such as dental stars, marks, hooks, or Galvayne’s groove.
  • Equine teeth also have coloration detail on their crowns which needs attention. 
  • Movie star teeth: When equine teeth are painted gleaming white. In life, however, they’re often tinted yellow, orange, grey, ivory, and brown, streaked with browns, golds, rusts, greys, and other discolorations. They can also be greenish–yellow due to feed, and have other distinctive coloration, smudges, shadows, streaks, and staining. The exception are “milk teeth” yet they still shouldn’t be gleaming, bright white regardless—tone them down for realism.
  • Pathological teeth: Teeth that have improper alignments and features like “waves” and “smiles,” elements that a good dentist would correct. 
  • Skewed teeth: When seen from the front, the set of the incisors isn’t centered on the skull's median line but skewed off to either side. The line where the two front incisors meet should be placed exactly on the median of the skull. 
  • Crooked teeth: Teeth that are leaning off to one side when seen from the front, or slanted inwards or outwards, creating crooked bilaterally asymmetrical teeth. Instead, teeth should be angled upwards properly and meet its pair straight on and symmetrically. Only the tushes are staggered, and being so, should be properly aligned to the maxilla and mandible respectively.
  • Missing teeth: Sculpted teeth that are lacking the proper number of incisors, often being only four or even seven rather than the correct six above and six below.
  • Missing tushes: Stallion sculptures that lack tushes. 
  • Cat ears: When equine ears appear triangular or cat–like, lacking the characteristic equine fluted and rimmed features. 
  • Teardrop ears: Sculpted ears that are shaped like teardrops rather than exhibiting the complex formations of the pinæ. 
  • Tube ears: Ears that lack not only the characteristic flute of the pinæ but also the bulb on the bottom, making the ears look like even tubes from base to tip.
  • Banana ears or llama ears: Ears lacking equine characteristics to instead be shaped like curved tubes, often with thick rims. A flaw often seen with mule, hemonid, zebra, and donkey sculptures.
  • Horse ears on other equine species: When we ignore the particular structure and characteristics of a species’ ear shape to instead sculpt them like horse ears. For example, horse ears on zebras. Each species has a specific ear shape that needs our attention for accuracy.
  • Spoon ears: When ears are shaped like spoons or scoops and lack the peculiar shape of the equine pinæ. A flaw often found on mule, hemoid, zebra, or donkey sculptures. Spoon ears are often blended with tube ears or banana ears, too. 
  • Misshapen ears: When ears lack the peculiar curvature of the equine pinae and the distinctive curves of the rims, typically with rims of similar shape and curvature.
  • Radar ears: When the ears are shaped like radar dishes or flat hollows, more like the ears of a Grevy’s Zebra than a horse. 
  • Pinched ears: When a sculpted ear is simply created by pinching a tipped flute at the bottom to form the “V” and then popped onto the head—this is a flawed technique. The equine ear is characterized by nuanced curves to the flute and the rims, especially where it connects on the head and meets its partner rim at the “V.” At that meeting they have a rather specific structure, details, folds, twists, shape, bulbs, and curves there that need special attention. Also these features change depending on ear position. 
  • Mis–muscled ears: When the complex musculature connecting the ears is in error or outright ignored, creating improper fleshy masses and configurations, or the ear appears perched on top of the head rather than inset with muscle attachment. 
  • Mis–seated ears: When ears aren’t seated into the skull properly to either be perched too high or placed too low on the sides of the crown, or placed too far forwards towards the eye or too far backwards towards the neck. The ears have a very specific anatomical seat with the cranium which we have to duplicate accurately. Indeed, misplaced ears can really throw our alignments off pretty quickly. 
  • Oversized or undersized ears: When ears aren’t consistent to proportion, age, or type. 
  • Non–gendered ears: When the sculpted ears don’t correlate with secondary sex characteristics.
  • Off–type ears: When ears aren’t consistent to a breed standard’s points of type, or to the type of horse the sculpture depicts. For example, drafters with Arabian–like ears, Marwaris with straight ears, or Arabians with Warmblood ears.
  • Asymmetrically placed ears: When ears aren’t matched in their skeletal placement or alignment. Repeated checking helps to guard against this common mistake.
  • Thick rims: When the ears lack the delicate, thin rims characteristic of the equine ear.
  • Pinched crown: When the crown is too pointy and narrow for an equine, also causing the ears to be pinched together at the base. Another flaw often see on mule, hemonid, and donkey sculptures. 
  • Expanded crown: The opposite effect wherein the crown is too broad, making the entire head unnaturally too broad for an equine.
  • Distorted occipital bone: When the occipital crest is too short or too long when seen from the side, giving the head an unnaturally blunted end or an unnaturally elongated one, like a Xenomorph.  
  • Inconsistent cranial structure: When the structure of the cranium doesn’t match the equine species or type. The truth is that the skulls of horses, ponies, mules, asses, hemonids, zebras, and hybrids have important differences on both structure and musculature that need our attention. For example, if we upend a horse’s skull, it’ll fall over whereas if we upend an ass’ skull, it’ll remain upright owning to its longer occipital crest.
  • Dead eyes: When the eyes lack intelligence, expression, “soul,” animus, or character. The horse is very expressive and lively with his eyes so they should be given due attention when sculpting. 
  • Peaked orbits: When the flesh and cranial structure above the eye have a pointed lid formation; when the brow is too pointy, often obvious in a 3/4 view. This often happens when we get carried away with sculpting expression and forget about overall structure. It’s important we inspect our sculpted areas from multiple angles as we work. Remember that brows are pulled upwards and inwards towards the middle of the crown, not forwards, away from the skull.
  • Neanderthal brows: When the brows are treated with a heavy–hand, creating blocky or bulbous protrusions.
  • Coarse eye brows: When the furrows of the eye brows, or the brows themselves, are sculpted too wide, too big, or too coarsely (sometimes with “pilling”) rather than being the delicate, small folds of expressive flesh they are in life. 
  • Big eyes: Eyes that are far too large to be accurate or viable, usually a product of artistic license or flawed proportional measurement. This could also be caused by our human interpretation of infant characteristics as adorable, docile, “doe-eyed,” or pretty (referred to as “pedomorphosis”). People are also a visual species, making eye contact a natural component in our responsive behavior, often causing artists to inadvertently enlarge what’s innately attractive. In reality, however, when it comes to conformation, a “large eye” doesn’t mean larger than normal, just not smaller than normal.   
  • Incomplete eyes: An eye missing the indention of the lower eye rim or the upper eye lid. 
  • Ping-pong eyes: When the orb itself is round like a ping-pong ball. However, in life, the orb is oblong and egg-shaped, creating more acute curves than a perfect sphere.
  • Mismatched eyes: When the eyes aren’t bilaterally symmetrical.
  • Crooked eyes: When the eyes aren’t aligned symmetrically.
  • Displaced eyes: When the orbit is misplaced too low towards the nostrils, too high towards the ears, too high towards the forehead, or too low towards the mandible. Keep in mind, however, that certain individuals and breeds can have what’s termed as an “ox head” in which the orbits are placed a snidge more towards the forehead. The Quarter Horse is a good example. Also, those heads with a concave axis can seem to place the eye a snidge lower on the EENA.
  • Frog Eyes: When the orb and surrounding flesh are too pronounced, causing the entire eye area to protrude too much from the head like the bulbous eyes of a frog.
  • Off–type eyes: When the eye contradicts the desired breed type. For example, small eyes on an Arabian, “snake eyes” on a drafter, or round eyes on an Iberian or Teke. 
  • Buggy Eyes: A globe that bulges out too much, or unnaturally, often indicative of hypothyroidism or other disorders.
  • Swollen lids: When the upper and lower lids are sculpted too big and bulky as to appear swollen, bulky, and bloated. The lids should always be in scale.
  • Cat eyes: When the eyes are angled on a forward–facing axis more like a cat or person, at an angle well past 33˚. Oddly enough, however, some lineages of horses, especially Pasos, are developing more forward–facing eyes as people select for this humanized trait. Yet nature designed equine eyes to sit on the sides of the head to produce the necessary field of vision, bringing this aesthetic into question.
  • Grooved eyes: When an inappropriately–sized sculpting tool outlines the orb, causing a deep, wide groove between the orbit itself and the lids. The lids on horses aren’t loose like those of a Basset Hound, but flushly hug the orb. 
  • Dog eyes: When the equine eye has a round pupil rather than an oval one. 
  • Flat eyes: Eyes lacking a rounded globe being flattened, usually a failure in sculpting technique. 
  • Squid eyes or Fish eyes: When seen from the front, the eyes are oriented flatly on the sides of the skull with an lower rim and upper rim aligned more up and down on the same plane rather than outwards at the top and inwards at the bottom.  
  • Inverted eyes: When the lower rim of the eye protrudes out farther than the upper rim, tipping the eye upwards like a flounder.
  • Tilted eye: When the canthi of the eye are misaligned with the skull and the EENA, away from the 42˚– 44˚angle.
  • Tilted pupil: When the pupil is misaligned with the canthi, or inconsistent with head position and ground level. 
  • Cataracts: When the pupil is painted a murky color rather than a clear dark tone indicative of a healthy eye. Not to be confused with metallic blue “eye shine” often painted inside the pupil. However, cataracts may be appropriate for the depiction of senior citizens.
  • Possessed eyes: Irises painted a homogenous color, lacking the gem–like quality and color depth so typical to the equine eye, creating an unpleasant staring, possessed look.
  • Blank face: Every second some part of the horse's face is being tweaked in some fashion, even with the slightest tensions, depending on mood or situation. So when we sculpt a horse's face as completely flaccid, we've effectively sculpted an unconscious horse. This means we need to infuse some form of expression on his face no matter what our sculpture portrays.
  • Open throat: When a sculpture with an open mouth allows us to look down the throat, like with our own throat. But remember the Palantal Drape at the back of the horse’s throat! For this reason then, we shouldn’t be able to see down his “gullet” if we sculpt an open mouth, but instead only see the sheet of the Drape.
  • Smooth hard palate: When the roof of the horse’s mouth has erroneously been sculpted smooth. In life, however, the hard palate of the equine is characterized by specific, pronounced ridges.  
  • Formulaic heads: When sculpting technique or artistic aesthetic is inflexible and habitual, creating a body of work that doesn’t account for the natural variation of head structures found in life.
  • Out of scale: When aspects of the sculpted head are out of scale, right down to the smallest vein or mole.
  • Ignoring biology: We should pay heed to equine biology when we choose which heads to use as references for our work. Many of today’s tastes contradict equine evolutionary biology, causing pain and impeded performance. So do we really want to endorse a head structure that compromises the animal’s function and well–being?
Conclusion To Part 16

Clearly it’s easy to veer off course as we recreate the equine head, isn’t it? Our misinterpretations, exaggerations, stylizations, and blindspots can all work together to cause us to jump the track, and right under our noses. Plus, what we don’t observe in life we cannot infuse into our work. In other words, what we don't See we don't sculpt. In this way then, our work is more about what isn't there than about what is, adding another layer of complication to our already heady task (pun intended ). 

Also complicating matters, only nature can create a factual horse. The very act of artistic creation automatically imbues a level of error no matter how hard we try. We all have our blindspots and it’s here where our errors originate. In this sense then, “improvement” is more about casting new light on our blindspots, to become better able at objectively perceiving what wasn’t Seen before in order to progressively eliminate them. This means that our ability to pinpoint our errors is more important than being able to identify our strong points. 

Yet making mistakes is also how we learn. If we did everything perfectly from the get go, what would we have earned and learned? Each piece is an exploration, and being so, makes us liable to skitter into unknown territory, inviting error. So the whole trick isn’t to be afraid of errors, but to be able to identify them when they happen. Accepting that we will make mistakes and committing ourselves to resolving them is often the more beneficial path.

For this then, being constantly vigilant about artistic errors takes work and dedication. It also asks of us a level of humility since we must first accept that we’ll be making errors in the first place. Nothing we do will be perfect and will always require adjustment and periodic tweaking to get right. But the good news is that the more pieces we finish, the more honed our observant skills become. Everything is a process. If we just keep making at least one forward step with each new piece, we’re improving. So until next time…keep pushing forward!

“Some things cannot be spoken or discovered until we have been stuck, incapacitated, or blown off course for awhile. Plain sailing is pleasant, but you are not going to explore many unknown realms that way.” ~ David Whyte

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Heads Above The Rest!; Exploring The Science and Art Of The Equine Head for Sculpting: Part 15



Introduction


Here we are again, back with more artistic considerations. There's a tremendous amount to weigh when we sculpt an equine head. It's not simply a matter of duplicating what we see! Nope! In reality, there's a whole slew of things we have to juggle if we hope to recreate both an accurate and accountable version. But accountable to what? To the equine, of course! This animal is so routinely objectified, we may no longer be aware of it anymore. What's more, these objectified ideals aren't always informed by his evolutionary biology. This suggests that we cannot shape his head any which way we like because there may be ethical obligations we need to consider. We need to remember that the equine head is the product of pure function with no consideration for our fickle ideas about beauty and perfection—yet look how perfectly beautiful function turned out to be!

But in relation to that, we have to regard the head from an artistic point of view, too—in equine realism, illusion informs fact and fact informs illusion. That's to say we use facts to create a convincing illusion of a real horse, and to do so we need the knowledge to shape our clay plus the practical skill to actually do it accurately. Our sculpting tool is only as effective as the knowledge that guides it—but just the same—our knowledge is only as useful as the tool that expresses it! Knowledge and technique—they may be different ways of looking at our subject but, nevertheless, both are needed for a convincing "breathing" illusion. This is why paying special attention to improve each independently and symbiotically really helps us grow artistically. So let's continue our artistic exploration, starting with the eyes!…

Other Artistic Considerations: Part 2

The eyes are often difficult to sculpt owing to their distinctive angles and orientation on the skull plus their fleshy features and potential for expression make a complicated feature even more so. The upper lid and brows are highly expressive by being drawn up to the forehead. While the lower lid is less mobile it can, nevertheless, still deepen its curve to appear more “doe–eyed,” "big–eyed," alert, “wide–eyed,” or gentle. Together then, the lids can open large and round with happy interest or be squinty with distaste or anger, or to shade the eye from the sun or wind. In turn, the bony zygomatics can be quite pronounced or more rounded and generalized, depending on individual variation or age. The brows can also be similarly more pronounced or less so often depending on individual variation. Sometimes the nature of the brows can be breed–specific, too. For example, the "toad eyes" on Exmoor ponies or the "snake eyes" on Tekes. What's more, the muscles of the forehead can become more defined or "pooch" based on his expression and mood, sometimes becoming more chiseled with concern or excitement. Those muscles may even be meatier by nature such as on stallions or many muscular stock breeds. However, keep in mind that the nature of the eye can vary a bit among individuals or breeds, so use good reference photos and do field study. 

As for the nostrils, they can be a bit fiddly to sculpt, too, owing to their mobility and fleshy nature. Honestly, what makes them so appealing is also what makes them so tricky! For instance, their high flexibility, of being able to expand greatly or change shape, or even orientation in relation to each other, can be a delicate balance of form, size, and angle. Yet we need to get them right since they add a lovely visual line to the end of the muzzle and instill a sense of living vitality. As for the front rim, which is cartilage, it’s rounded, strongly shaped, and bulbous, especially at the top where it meets the posterior rim at the “V.” When seen from the front, also note the network of wrinkles between the paired comma cartilages, wrinkles which often crisscross in a checkerboard pattern when relaxed or deeper upright ones when the nostrils are flared. And notice the delicate wrinkles often found around the lateral, back rim. When flared, these comma cartilages are pulled together more (seen from the front), narrowing the space between them and causing more pronounced wrinkling, crinkling, pock marking, and buckling. When pulled together this way, they can even lift up, causing a subtle ridge on the top of the muzzle, above about where they curve downward. More still, the outer rim, which is fleshy, can be rather thin and fine (often on hot bloods) or thicker and fleshier (often on warm or cold bloods). When flared, the false nostril can also billow upwards, creating an elevated flute with the top of the nasal bone and lifting the “V” upwards, above the surface of the muzzle. The true nostril also doesn’t always billow as an even puffed–up triangular flute, but also can as a series of complex curves, bulges, and depressions consistent with the overlaying fleshy connections. For this reason, it’s a mistake to sculpt a flared nostril as a solid, evenly–expanded triangular flute every time. Being highly pliable, too, nostrils can also markedly change shape and size, even able to be slightly twisted or lifted up on the end of the muzzle. Indeed, when we compare the nostrils between rest, expression, mobility, and dilation, we can see pronounced changes. Being so, nostril activity can be rather subtle and delicate or outright explosive and intense. Like when a horse “snorts and blows,” we can see how the nostril’s shape changes quite distinctively, or how a mere twitch, quiver, or dilation can make a big difference. That’s because horses don’t use their nostrils just to breath, but to communicate as well, or scent the air, clear the nasal passages, shut off the airway, or express their mood. And like the eyes, whiskers adorn the nostrils, and when shaved, leave their correlating fleshy whisker bumps that add essential details for sculpture. For all these reasons then, field study is very helpful since nostrils are so textured and variable.  

The muzzle can also be a complicated area to sculpt owing to its subtle curves, flexibility, and individual or breed variation. The nostrils form its anterior dorsal aspect, shaping the profile depending on their nature while the boxy upper lip adds a distinct blunted bulb at the end of the muzzle with the lower lip usually adding a rounded rim below it, and finally ending at the chin which can be of varying shapes and sizes depending on breed, individual variation, or age. For example, foal faces may have nearly nonexistent chins, having instead a larger, pouty lower lip. What’s more, since the muzzle is so flexible, mobile, and expressive, it's very quirky and changeable with circumstance or mood. For example, it might twitch or the lower lip might bob up and down, or might even become pendulous and droopy if he’s relaxed or dozing off. On the other hand, the muzzle can become tense, stiff, and pooched (often with a “pooky” upper lip) when he’s angry, anxious, excited, pugnacious, or stressed, and often with a pinched chin that can pooch and distort in nearly any direction. His muzzle might even be tweaky with mobile lips if he’s feeling goofy and silly. Muzzles also vary with breed such as the neat, dainty, "dry" muzzle of the Arabian compared to the boxier, blunter, meatier muzzle of the Quarter Horse to the larger, less defined fleshy muzzle of the Clydesdale. Muzzles also vary with each individual, lending plenty of options for our clay. Yet the one thing we should notice is its texture from its fleshy, elastic, warm–velvety–soft nature to the wrinkled, crinkled, folded, bumpy, buckled, pock marked, and whisker bump fleshy surface. The chin can even become crinkled and pock marked as it's tensed and pinched. Indeed, muzzles are irresistibly tempting to touch so we need to capture that in our clay to really set off our sculpture. Indeed, a common misstep is to sculpt the muzzle with little consideration for its texture, fleshiness, and variability.

As for the mouth, we should pay special attention to the structural relationships between the lips. The anterior portion of the top lip is blunt with a boxy, nearly prehensile portion, sometimes with a depression in the middle. It’s also often narrower in front than at the corners of the mouth where it’s often wider, in contrast to the lower lip which tends to be broader and squared at the front, rounded and bulbous, becoming narrower at the corners of the mouth, almost like being an inverse of the upper lip. However, this contrast is less pronounced or nonexistent in many horses, forming lips of more or less equal protrusion, so it all depends on the individual. Even so, the lower lip can lay below the end of the upper lip, or even protrude beyond it in a pout, something often found with foals, relaxed horses, or horses with particularly fleshy muzzles. As for those mouth corners, notice how the upper lip curves around and can slightly overlap the corner of the lower lip just a snidge at times? Also note that when the mouth is opened, the lower and upper lips aren’t abrupt sheets of flesh inside the mouth (like our mouths), but are folded inwards, particularly at the corners, creating inward flaps. Being so stretchy, the lips are also often wrinkled to varying degrees depending on the individual. Also notice the texture between the upper lip rim and the nostrils, on the sides of the head. That area can have all sorts of fun things to sculpt! Adding to it all, his lips are also very expressive, indicating his mood and emotional state, able to be loosened, slack, twitched, tensed, pinched, pooched, twisted, undulating, or stretched. The lips also serve as his “hand” to explore and investigate, often seen when he “mouths” objects, or when he grasps and gathers food into his mouth with great precision.

When considering his head, we also have to account for age since as the years go by, his head changes, too. For example, foal heads are distinctly different because they lack the cranial and muscular development of an adult. Remember, these are the heads of infants and equines definitely have neotenous characteristics. That means foal heads aren’t smaller or bonier versions of adult heads, but distinctly different due to these infant characteristics. As a result, their structures are rounder, softer, more generalized and less pronounced. And because they lack the distinct bony development of an adult, teardrop bones, nasal bones, zygomatics, and orbital development are less pronounced, appearing flatter, rounder, less distinct, more delicate, and softer. Think of less distinct angles and protrusions, and generalized “filled in” cranial structure. Indeed, few features on a foal head are abrupt, pronounced or harsh. The actual shape of the cranium is markedly different from an adult as well, often with foreheads that are softly broad, domed, and sometimes bulging, and are more rectangular from the side, with immature, underdeveloped mandibles (jaws and bars) and undeveloped jaw musculature. Remember they’re still drinking their mother’s milk and don’t need to do all that chewing just yet. From the front then, foal heads are more softly diamond–shaped than an adult’s more rectangular shape owing to the foals underdeveloped mandible and lower maxilla. And remember that foals don’t have adult teeth, but “milk teeth,” a detail necessary for a foal sculpture with an open mouth. On certain breeds, too, the convex or concave nature of the head axis will be present even at infancy, sometimes markedly so. Their cranial muscles also tend to be more generalized and less obvious, though there are always exceptions, most notably with Arabian or Teke foals who can have relatively “dry” heads even at a young age. Nonetheless, foal eyes tend to be proportionally larger, and located more towards the muzzle than in the adult, or rather, foal heads tend to be shorter between the eye and the nostril. The brows are also softer and less distinct. Similarly, when compared to the rest of the head, the ears are often proportionally bigger as well. Muzzles tend to be smaller, more dainty, and neater in comparison, too, owing to the immature milk teeth, with much less pronounced upper lips, and with delicate, little nostrils. Their lower lips also tend to be bigger, bulbous, and pouty in relation to their tiny pinched chins (sometimes chins can even be almost nonexistent). Foal muzzles often aren’t developed enough to produce those “inverted lips,” too. 

On the other hand, a senior citizen also has a distinct head. Specifically, all those big, deep–rooted teeth have been worn down to nubs, actually changing the shape of his head, so what was once a more wedge–shaped head has become somewhat more rectangular because there no longer exist those long tooth roots. What’s more, his incisors lengthen and angle outwards much more, becoming “long in the tooth,” changing the look of his muzzle as well. Collagen also begins to break down, causing his lower lip and chin to droop and his muzzle to appear softer and slacker, often becoming droopy. His lower lip will often hang loose as a result, a charming effect. Muscles can slacken, too, sometimes causing the musculature of his entire head to soften and become more generalized with bony aspects becoming more pronounced. For instance, the zygomatics often become more pronounced as does the Salt Cellar. However, sometimes his head will become “drier” as fat is lost, so it really depends on the individual and circumstance. Nonetheless, the post–orbital fat behind the eyes also usually atrophies, causing the eyes to sink in a bit (some people confuse this with a “pig eye”). In turn, this can cause his brows to become more pronounced as the eye sinks into the socket. His head overall, therefore, often appears more frail and weathered. He may also develop cataracts though they rarely cause complete blindness. However, they do cause an opaqueness in the eye, a detail for painters. White hairs will also proliferate around his temples, eyes, teardrop bone, and nostrils. In life, keeping weight on a senior citizen can be a real challenge for various reasons, but mostly because of his spent teeth. Those that do keep a good weight still basically have the changed head characteristics though perhaps not so extreme. However, those who don't often appear more bony and gaunt as the aging effects become amplified because, sadly, he’s essentially starving to death. We see this with seniors who aren’t properly managed with tooth care or feed, or with feral or wild horses left to their own devices. Nonetheless, all these changing features combine to give the senior citizen a distinct look, one important to capture for the authenticity of our sculpture.

Head structure can also vary with gender as secondary sex characteristics are present in the horse. For instance, a stallion's head appears “meatier” with a deeper jowl and more powerful jaw and temporal muscles plus usually smaller ears. On the other hand, a mare’s head is usually more feminine, being more rectangular in profile with softer, “drier” cranial musculature and shallower, less–muscled jowls and temporal area. Their ears are typically longer than that of a stallion, too. As for geldings, they’re a mixed bag since they usually sport a physical eccentricity that disqualified them from breeding. That means their heads represent a lack of testosterone that would soften a stallion’s head, and sometimes with some idiosyncrasy that helped to cull them from breeding.

Above all we should remember that each horse’s head is different just like our own so pay attention to field study and reference photos—a set of calipers and a protractor are useful tools here. A firm grasp of cranial anatomy is critical here as well to use as a template so we can spot the breed–based or individualistic variations. Now this isn’t to say that the structures are different—they’re all anatomically the same since they’re equines—but the uniqueness of each head can have some differences in how the cranial features and musculature manifest. So if we recreate the head the same way on every piece, we risk a formulaic trap. Instead, it's better to express each of our sculpted heads with fresh Eyes to avoid habitual interpretation that would diminish our ability to capture individuality.  

Scale

But it doesn't end there! Nope—we have another fundamental issue to consider: scale. Whatever size we're sculpting, scale is a fundamental component to our efforts—it's part and parcel to the very basis of our job in equine realism. Indeed, its influence is so strong that even one portion that's too big or too small will destroy our illusion instantly—it takes just one slip. For this reason, we need to attend to scale throughout every facet of our process and techniques from our visualization tricks to our sculpting techniques and even our actual tools. Truly, using a tool that's inherently out of scale will skew our work just as surely as anything else. Likewise, we need to religiously use our scaling techniques, scaled tools, and a good set of calipers regularly to stay on track because the very act of sculpting can cause scale to skew very quickly.

In addition, we can think of Proportion as a part of scale even though it's also its own topic. That's because Proportion must intrinsically be in scale to the size of the overall piece. Likewise, Placement is connected to scale as well, in that it entails how we shrink or expand the distance between each feature. In similar fashion, even Texture and Expression are connected to scale since we have to gauge how they reduce or increase in size dependent on the scale of our piece. For example, creating eye lids out of scale to the eye area will produced an unrealistic, sometimes caricatured look, especially if expression is pronounced.

In a very real sense then, we can deduce the observational skills and artistic abilities of an artist based almost entirely on their reproduction of proper scale throughout their piece. It's alarmingly easy to get off track, and often quickly and right under our noses. Being so, scale also demonstrates an artist's diligence and commitment since it requires constant vigilance.

As for errors, a common one is to sculpt eyes that are too big, sometimes to the point of "Jackie O sunglasses." In similar fashion, many times the orbs are too bulgy out of their sockets, creating a bubble–like effect. In response then, the brows and lids can be unnaturally enlarged or extreme to compensate, or the grooves between them are too broad, producing an overall eye area that's obviously out of scale. At times, nostrils can be far too big or too small, particularly when flared. Furthermore, chins are often too big, and mouths too short or too long. At times we'll also see the zygomatic arches sculpted too small or too big, typically with the "button" of the mandible out of alignment with them as a result. Similarly, we'll often find tear drop bones that are too big or too small which can throw off the look of the head immediately. Commonly, too, we'll find veining, moles, chestnuts, and other details like wrinkles, far out of scale, typically being too big. Texture can also be out of scale as we might see with inappropriately enlarged rippling, pock marks, or squiggles.

The Seven Fundamentals

Related to all this are seven basic qualities that lay the technical foundation for what we do in equine realism. These seven components are integral to everything we do, and if we get any one of them wrong, our work just won't be accurate. Each one is an artistic consideration regarding cranial anatomy (and by extension, anatomy in general), and so each helps us to get things right. These Seven Fundamentals are:
  1. Anatomy (to include Biomechanics)
  2. The Five Ps: Proportion, Placement, Planes, Precision, and Presence
  3. Alignments
  4. Scale
  5. Texture
  6. Detail
  7. Expression
When it comes to these Seven Fundamentals then, sculpted heads can exhibit some typical anatomical (and biomechanical) inaccuracies, especially given just how complicated this feature is to sculpt. Most often anatomical planes are incorrect or landmarks are misplaced or even nonexistent, distorting the head away from reality. Sometimes the head is unnaturally too wide, often on the top half of the head with the bottom half being much more narrow, creating a strange pinched, duck–like effect to the face. This error can often be associated with trying to capture certain points of breed type such as with Arabians or Quarter Horses. More rarely we'll see the opposite though it does happen often on a more subtle level. Often times we'll find the mouth opening at the chin rather than the entire jaw dropping from the joint behind the eye. Or even sometimes if the mouth is opened properly behind the eye, the line of the jaw doesn't match the lay of the bottom incisors, creating a broken jaw. Asymmetries are common as well between both sides of the face. Or the median line down the skull is crooked, bent, or misplaced, causing all the features to be skewed in relation to each other and also away from proper alignment to this disecting line. Ears are also often misplaced being either placed too close to the eye, too far away from it on the neck, or too high on the crown, "perched" on top rather than seated into the skull. 

When it comes to the Five Ps, Proportional errors are also common. For instance, we often see heads that are either too big or too small for the body (most commonly too big). Biomechanically, the head is at the end of the spine—a counterbalancing weight at the end of a long "noodle." Therefore, a head not in proper proportion to the rest of the body can be a functional liability, and if the sculpted disparity is large enoughwhich can easily happenit may even be unrealistic. This error is often a product of an artistic blindspot exacerbated by a flawed proportional measurement system, or neglecting to use calipers regularly. Jaw bars that are too thick can happen, too, or they can be set too close or too far apart from each other, creating a head that's too narrow or two wide altogether, or too wide on the bottom aspect, distorting the rest of the head. Often a forgotten feature of the head, the jaw bars definitely have a delicate balance to each other and to the rest of the head, and getting them right helps to form the proper scaffolding for a correct head. As for ears, we'll find some that are too small, but more often those that are too big in relation to the depicted species, gender, age, or breed type. For these reasons, it's smart to record our proportional measurements such as the head length and the "thirds" sections with our proportional calipers. That way we can quickly and accurately recheck our work as we go with a fixed measurement. Errors in Placement and Planes are common as well since it's easy to skew them, too, if we aren't checking them regularly. Precision is also an oftenforgotten aspect of sculpting the head which always needs careful attention. The anatomical aspects, surfaces, topography, textures, features, and expressions all depend on the precision of our hands and tools—the better the Precision, the better the result. Absolutely, a sloppy, careless, cursory, or imprecise hand will cause our illusion to collapse just as quickly as an anatomical flaw. For example, eye lids that are clumsily, imprecisely, or messily sculpted with "pills," tears, distortions, unevenness, and other oversights simply won't be convincing despite the accuracy of everything else, will they? A lack of Precision doesn't only cause anatomical errors in this way, but also artistic distractions that compromise the overall impact of our piece. Because of this Precision is often a defining factor of masterful work. 


Alignments pertain to the relative relationships facial features have with each other like the EENA and we've already discussed others in Part 14. Nonetheless, some common errors with Alignment are features that are misplaced or distorted. Again, asymmetries are a typical error here. For example, misshapen joints that don't have their topography properly lined up between the two sides or aligned properly on the tops of the bony shafts. And as for Scale, we've already discussed that here.


Now as for Texture, this refers to the nature of the surface topography of the hide insofar as little bumps, squiggles, wrinkles, ripples, pock marks, striations, and other little fleshy details that typify the hide, hair, and skin. Equines don't have a hyperpolished, smooth surface but are rich with all sorts of fleshy little things happening on his body surface, and this is where field study comes in handy by reestablishing what's so often stripped away during dissection. But this issue is often a feature of artistic style as long as we recognize this as a function of style rather than reality, it has some context. That said, errors can be found here as well, most often with being sculpted too harshly so that they lack the delicate fleshiness that so often typifies them. Or we find them to be regimented and so fail to convey the look of organic nature. Sometimes they don't blend into surrounding areas, making the effect look contrived. For instance, wrinkles that have an abrupt ending with the surround flesh rather than blending gradually into it. Scale is a common problem with Texture, too, often being far too big. We have to always remember that fleshy details are characteristically squishy, subtle, varied, and organic so our interpretations should reflect those qualities to maximize the effect.


Now for Detail, that pertains to all the additional minute fleshy tidbits like veins, moles, eyelashes, inner ear ridges, and other little touches that add believability to our piece. Detail is sometimes flawed by not being anatomically accurate, not reflecting the fleshy or bony nature it intends to mimic, being out of scale, or crudely sculpted. For example, veins that aren't bilaterally symmetrical, aren't patterned organically or realistically, are too big, or are carved–grooves rather than protruding squiggles. Another flaw are moles that are popped on rather than blended into the surface. Or moles with a cave in, like a collapsed souffle. Eyelashes are often out of Scale, not being the delicate wisps of hair they are in life. Detail also suffers from similar flaws as Texture does. 


And, lastly, we have Expression which entails gesture, emotion, "soul," and narrative as we discussed already in Part 13. It can be flawed by not matching the narrative of the piece, being expressed too strongly (like with overly extreme moving eye lids), or being inconsistent to both anatomy, coordination, or natural equine behavior. On the other hand, sometimes it's absent altogether, giving the sculpture a vacant, vapid look.


Altogether then, every aspect of our efforts, from the overarching idea to the most minute detail, should mesh together harmoniously so that no one element is a distraction. That's because if our eye is "stopped" in a way we didn't intend, the desired impact of our composition will be weakened. Truly, one wrong note can cause the entire piece to clank rather than sing.

Conclusion To Part 15

Artistically portraying the equine is pretty tough—we have a lot to juggle and our knowledge base needs to be uncommonly interdisciplinary, objective, and expansive. This is one of the reasons why honing keen observational skills is so important. Simply put, the better observers we are, the better our work becomes since we’ll simply perceive more to infuse more into our media. To help with this, simplifying the equine head into simple concepts at first to later refine is a proven technique for getting things right. In other words, start with the big ideas then move onto the little ones. For this, understanding some simple relationships between form and structure can guide us through the initial stages of the creative process, gifting us with greater confidence in our efforts.

Yet we also need to blow past rhetoric and convention to instead regard the subject from a more objective point of view. Yet, on the other hand, we cannot careen so much into technicality that we end up creating soulless, clinical representational art that fails to capture the spirit or narrative of this animal. So much about compelling realism is to also convey the inner experience of our subject. To this end, giving thought to these and other artistic considerations can guide us to a more authentic portrayal of this animal that also expresses his complex nature.

Deeper still, there's a lot of "energy" in the initial moments of building a sculpture, isn't there? Those first few stages where we block in the big ideas really seem to capture the personality and flow of the piece beautifully. So much "elemental spirit"! Now if we can keep that energy contained within our composition to the very finishing touches, we've accomplished a great piece of equine art. And one of the best ways we can preserve this defining "feel" of each piece is to have a firm grasp of the fundamental structure of our subject and how it all fits and works together. Pair this with fluency in EquiSpeak and we've got ourselves an invaluable tool box! Connecting all this together is our ability to abstract our subject's structure to snatch the "elemental life," the "essence of anima" to infuse into our clay. Again, we can do this best by working from the big ideas first then progressing to the little ideas. If we get distracted by minutiae too early, that energy is going to drain out and we'll be left with a piece of depleted "spirit," of a "flatness" that can only happen with overworking and undisciplined focus. So understand the hierarchy of sculptural creation when it comes to equine realism: Big ideas first! Always try to simplify structure into basic shapes first and focus on Proportion, Planes, and Placement. Only after that's been done can we best progress to refining and defining. Keep those Alignments consistent, and always keep Scale in mind with every tool stroke. Once all of this is done, that's when we can start to focus on Texture, Detail, and other fiddly bits, and all without sacrificing the emotional narrative we intend. We can do it when we have an effective approach and process! Anyway then, until next time…careen headfirst into discovery and exploration!

“I obliged myself to explore where I might otherwise not have. And that’s what ‘mind-flexing’ is all about – making those brain-muscles work so that you feel empowered to pursue your own vision.” ~ Tony Smibert

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Heads Above The Rest!; Exploring The Science and Art Of The Equine Head for Sculpting: Part 14


Introduction

Welcome back to this series examining the equine head from both an evolutionary, anatomical, and artistic perspective. Being a visual species, we naturally gravitate towards the heads of other creatures, and that makes getting the equine head right critically important for the appeal of our work. And as artists working in realism we also need an interdisciplinary understanding to create both accurately and meaningfully. 

So far we’ve delved into the evolution and anatomy of the equine head, so now let’s start exploring its artistic aspects. That’s because it’s not enough to simply know about the structure of the equine head—we also have to translate that into our media, too. And there’s a big difference between knowing and doing, and in few other art forms do we have to know and do so much. To that end then, let’s jump in!…

Landmarks

When it comes to the skull and flesh, each individual has variation to the blueprint, just like us. That means each of our sculpted heads should be different in cranial qualities and how the fleshy features manifest. Nonetheless, most of the equine skull is subcutaneous bone and palatable under the skin so the head owes most of its shape and size to the skull itself, providing plenty of landmarks to guide us as a result. This means the more life study we do, especially when we actually feel the horse’s head to “program" the structures into our hands, the more clarity we gain. So on the skull, the most ready landmarks to orient our sculpting are:
  • The tip and ridge of the masseteric ridge (teardrop bone).
  • The bony structures surrounding the eyes, especially the zygomatic arches.
  • The Salt Cellar.
  • The nasal bone (and its median groove).
  • The forehead (sometimes the temporal line, or the external frontal crest, can be felt on the forehead as well).
  • The poll.
  • The bars.
  • The caudal rim of the rami plus the mandible “button” underneath the zygomatics.
  • In the space between the jaw bars, at a point just in front of the jowls, we can feel the underside of the Basihyoid bone of the Hyoid Apparatus.
As for the teeth and gums, the front twelve incisors are easy to see if we lift the lips. The tushes are also easily seen from the side if inspecting a stallion or gelding. If we’re quick (and the horse is accommodating), we can even study the tooth surfaces of the incisors, too. The molars and possible Wolf’s Teeth are more difficult to see, so if we can observe a dental exam that uses a mouth speculum, it’s educational. Being so, we might even be able to catch a glimpse of the Palantal Drape, tongue, and the ridged hard palate.

The external aspects of the nostrils are easily palpated and observed. The front and back rims of the nostrils are evident as is the upper fold of the posterior rim over the anterior cartilage at the top "V" where the two rims meet. The tail of the comma cartilage can be palpated and sometimes seen as a subtle bump. The false nostril is abundantly clear when the horse flares his nostrils or snorts, too. The features on the muzzle can also be easily seen and felt from the lips to the chin to the whiskers (or just the whisker bumps if the whiskers have been shaved). The lips are easily seen and felt, and the corner of the mouth makes an important landmark. Likewise, his eye area can be gently felt from the eyelashes to the eyelids to the whisker bumps. The outer aspects of the ear flute, bulb, and its details are easily seen and palpated as well, even the twist and fold of the inner rim near the "V" where the two rims meet at the bottom.

Facial musculature can either appear as generalized, in moderate detail, or in crisp detail, or "dry," depending on the breed, individual, management, climate, level of exertion, or circumstance. "Dryness" can also be expressed in different locations of the head with other areas being more generalized—it all depends on the individual and circumstances. Yet because the skull is mostly palatable under the skin, nearly every fleshy facial feature is a landmark, depending on how crisply it’s expressed. Yet six fleshy features are stand-outs as useful, more consistent orienting landmarks:
  • Quadratus labii inferioris
  • Depressor labii inferioris
  • Levator labii sup. alæque nasi
  • Zygoamticus major
  • Buccinator
  • Masseter
These bony and fleshy landmarks help to guide our proportions, planing, and placements so we get things right. The equine head is very precisely constructed, so it's important to orient things properly for it to look right. Just one feature that's off can skew our entire head into error. This means it's important to continually check our work as we sculpt since things can go sideways rather quickly without constant vigilance. In particular, sculpting expression tends to cause us to lose sight of the head's technical structure so we need to pay special attention when we do so.

Key Proportions, Abstractions, and Alignments

Knowing how to measure the general dimensions and alignments of the equine head is necessary for an accurate result so here are some handy relationships we can apply. However, these are only basic, generalized guides, so think of them as templates from which to make comparisons to create variations. Indeed, different individuals, genders, ages, breeds, and species vary, adding diversity to our possibilities. But we all need a baseline, right? Condition and management play their role, too. For example, nutrition can influence the bony cranial development of youngsters. Always use good reference photos for this reason, and learn to see the anatomical structures underneath the skin. And make ready use of protractors, rulers, and proportional calipers—they’re our best friends when sculpting the head. 

In fact, breaking down the horse’s head into simple shapes can help us quite a bit. So with all that in mind, here are some useful general associations:
  • The length of the head in front of the eyes is elongated—the horse’s head is stretched forwards in front of the eye. Because of this, the typical equine head is usually divided into thirds: (1) from the base of the ear “V” to the front canthus of the eye then (2) from that point to mid-head then (3) from that point to the end of the muzzle. However, different breeds and individuals can vary. 
  • The depth of the skull from forehead to the bottom of the ramus is about 1/2 the length of the head, generally speaking. Some individuals or breeds may be more or less, and old horses are often less, especially through the bars, since their teeth have reached their terminal end.
  • The last molar lays almost right below the eye, about near the middle off the teardrop bone, while the first premolar lays about midway under the Buccinators.
  • The back of the jaw draws up to the zygomatic arches, aligning with its “button” underneath the zygomatics. 
  • The ear canal is aligned with the zygomatic arches and the orbit.
  • The "V" at the bottom of the ear usually protects parallel to the median to pass in front of the front canthi. However, different breeds or individuals can vary depending on brow width.
  • The alignment of the ear–eye–nostril (EENA) often forms a straight line. Notice that the teardrop bone and the mouth generally parallel the EENA, too. However, the EENA can vary between individuals, breeds, or species. 
  • The internal axis of the skull is what tends to dictate head shape. Specifically, the equine head can be categorized into three basic types: (1) the arched or sub–convex head, (2) the concave head, and (3) the straight head, with plenty of variations in between. What this means is that the axis of the head can be variable dependent on the individual, family, or breed, with a central axis being bent down, bent upwards, or straight, respectively speaking, beginning generally around the tip of the masseteric ridge. For example, many Iberian, Kladrubers, Lippizzans, or Draft breeds have an arched or sub–convex head in which the entire nasal portion of the skull drops downwards from the EENA, producing a distinctive “ram–head” appearance. In contrast, Arabians and some pony breeds may have a dished head in which the nasal portion is lifted slightly upwards from the EENA (though sometimes Arabians have a straight EENA but with a dished nasal bone and jibbah). In contrast, Morgans, Saddlebreds, stock breeds, and Thoroughbreds tend to have straight heads that more closely follow the straight line of the EENA. This means the shape of the head usually isn’t created by the shape of the nasal bone, but created deep inside the skull with its internal axis. This is why sculptures that merely change the nasal bone without attending to the head axis may look odd. For example, they can appear too “dolphin-like” if a dish was created by gouging down the nasal bone with the added dome of the forehead. Sometimes we also see the jaw bars suffering reduction as well, making the head appear fluted, “seahorse-like,” or pinched in the middle (and when the nostrils are flared, we have an odd trumpet–like shaped head). On the other hand, a head can be made to be too thick if made to be more convex by simply adding a curve to the existing nasal bone.  
  • From the front, we can form a "T" between the anterior canthi and the median line of the head. The same can be said for the tips of the teardrop bones, the nostrils (when symmetrically resting or flared), and the corners of the mouth (when symmetrically held). This helps us to maintain symmetry between the two sides of the face.
  • The anterior and posterior canthi of the eye are angled at an approximate 42˚– 44˚ angle to the EENA. However, different individuals or breeds may vary. 
  • The angle of the lower angle with the "button" of the zygomatic somewhat echoes this 42˚– 44˚ angle.
  • The orientation of the eye has two general planes. The first angles inwards at the bottom and outwards at the top. The second angles ever so slightly forwards towards the front canthus.
  • Seen from the top of the head, looking down on it, the eyes are angled about 33˚ to the median line of the head. However, some breeds or individuals have more of an angle or less of an angle.
  • When seen from the top or front, the basic shape of the head is like a kite with a taila diamond for the forehead and the tail for the nasal bone.
  • When seen from the front (nose on), the top rim of the eye protrudes a snidge farther out whereas the bottom rim of the eye dips a snidge farther in, causing the plane of the eye to angle inwards at the bottom.   
  • When seen from the front, the brows are usually the widest portion of the cranium, with the bulge of the eyes themselves usually the widest part of the head itself. However, in horses with narrower heads, their brows can be about as wide as the ear bulbs. Also the eyes of senior citizens can be more sunken due to reduction of the fat pad behind the orb. On the other hand, on some muscular stock breeds such as the Quarter Horse, the robust jaw muscles over the ramus may be the widest part of the head.
  • The chin usually ends somewhat near the back of the nostrils, or to varying degrees in front of it if he's relaxed or dozing.
  • The top branch of the “Y” vein flows from the front canthus of the eye to the front of the teardrop bone while the second branch flows towards the nostrils.
  • When seen from the front, the skull forms an elongated and inverted isosceles trapezoid due to the narrower mandible and broad brows.  
  • The muscles of the mouth and cheek form nested “Ws.” However, the Buccinators can be more like a solid wad of flesh or a slightly different configuration, too, depending on the individual so pay attention to this area and look for variations.
  • The nostril forms a “6” on the right side and a backwards “6” on the left side. 
  • The front rim of the Alar cartilage of the nostril forms a “C” when relaxed and more of an “L” when dilated. 
  • When seen from the front, the “V” at the top of the nostril, where the rims meet, is oriented more towards the median than the lower aspect of the back rim, which protrudes more outward. This puts the nostril on an inward slant towards the top, predominantly along the back rim. In contrast, the comma cartilages tend to orient more upright, often with an elegant inward curve in the middle. 
  • The top aspect of the zygomatic arches is like a "U" oriented towards the poll while the lower aspect is like a "Y" oriented towards the ears.
  • The zygomatics can exhibit some variety in how prominent and "cut" they are, so pay attention when looking for variation.
  • The bulbs of the ears and the brows of the eyes are about as broad as the wings of the Atlas bone.
  • The ears are set on the crown of the head, on the sides, seated into their bulla right behind the line of the rami, not perched on top.
  • The ears are positioned behind the jaw alignment and behind the zygomatic arches on either side of the crown, in front of the occipital crest and seated into the skull. The bulb being rounded and obvious, aligns with the EENA, and is rigid and firm. This alignment of the ear on the skull doesn’t really vary like the EENA because the seat of the ear is more an anatomical feature than a conformation one. 
  • From the front, the "V" at the bottom of the ear tends to sit on a plane parallel to t he median that runs in front or just inside the front canthi, depending on breed or individual variation.
  • The back of the jaw should flow up to the back to its “button” underneath the zygomatics; the "button" of the zygomatics sits right in front of the back line of the ramus.
  • From beneath, the jaw bars form an elongated triangle, widest at the rami to meet each other at the chin. They’re rounded, not sharply rimmed, and have an underline that represents the individual characteristics of the particular horse.
  • From the top, the nasal bone should be centered on the median line, and often has a subtle hourglass shape with rounded sides.
  • The upper lip can be thought of as a little box that twitches, pooks, tweaks, stretches, and wiggles, being actively mobile.
Other Artistic Considerations: Part 1

Now we come to more specific concepts dealing with artistic interpretation, these things being unique to our practice of art. That's to say, as realistic equine artists, we have to wrestle with things that can only happen in clay, those missteps we generate ourselves because of our blindspots and knowledge gaps. But we're going to split Artistic Considerations into different parts since the topic is such a big one. This way we can more fully discuss the issues without generating a blog post that goes on forever! So let's go!…

For starters, it’s important to understand that the concept of a “pure breed,” with fixed registrable bloodlines or closed stud books with fixed “points of type,” didn’t exist prior to the Victorian age. Specifically, this trend started with the Thoroughbred, the oldest known registry being the English Jockey Club formed in 1752 as a means to guarantee parentage to make racing fair. Then following in 1876 was the Percheron Horse Association of America. Indeed, the era of the “purebred” arose within this cultural background typified by class elitism and eugenics. The concept developed a prejudiced side, too, being steeped in Western European ideals of superiority in relation to other cultures, or even within its own class system. Quite literally, having a “purebred” horse instead of a common horse was akin to driving a Rolls Royce compared to a junker. And it was simply accepted that elite Western ideals of perfection were far superior to that of other cultures, and so all horses were evaluated with that prejudiced perception despite the unique gene pool, distinct function, rich history, or cultural backdrop that may have formed other breeds.

Also, previously, horses were classified in context to their job or as land races. That’s to say, horses were usually bred according to their use rather than their “pure” bloodline or points of type. Therefore, horses were usually classified as riding (including gaited), draft, stock, racing, carriage, etc. types. Or sometimes “Farmer Bob” simply bred a distinctive type for his own use. So because horses were bred for a specific purpose, there existed more realistic expectations of a phenotype. We buy certain automobiles to fit a specific need, don’t we? We don’t buy a sports car to use it like an SUV, and we don’t buy a sedan to use it as a utility truck. Well, horse breeding was approached in much the same way since the horse was predominantly a utilitarian animal.

When the engine replaced the horse, however, his role changed entirely. He found new value in sport, showing, and recreation. This threw open the door even wider for the concept of “pure breed” to flourish with its elite closed stud books, glamorized mythologies (many which often were fabricated), and distinctive “points of type,” a kind of brand identify for a breed as it vied for market dominance. In this way, the “purebred” became big business and as fixed “points of type” gained importance as a kind of breed advertising, such pressures began to override functional structure, making the equine blueprint vulnerable to exaggeration or faddish skews. Closed registry books also fixed the gene pool which not only jeopardized genetic diversity, but also forced a single phenotype once bred for a specific purpose to now be applied to multiple uses in order to prevail in a market that profited best from versatility. Truly, some breeds have become so changed that many lineages are unrecognizable from their foundation stock. In fact, the deterioration of foundation archetypes has become so troublesome in some breeds that “preservation breeding” has become a buzzword. But perhaps the most unfortunate by–product of this dynamic is the creation of “lawn ornaments,” those specimens so deformed by the intense selection for "points of type" that they're nonviable, as sometimes seen with the Arabian and Quarter Horse, for example. And one of the most common areas of nonviable traits entails in the head since it’s often strongly associated with breed identity. The result are heads that feature deformities and exaggerations of type that render the animal unable to function normally. Indeed, the rise of wheezing in the Arabian, for example, is a sad byproduct of the capricious selection for an ever–deeper dish, or "extreme head." On the other hand, fads can cause a breed's characteristic head to change in type altogether such as we see with the Saddlebred influence on Morgans, or the Arabian influence on American Iberians or Quarter Horses.

Yet this isn’t to say that all change is wrong. There’s an inherent responsibility in any domestic breeding program—it’s called “animal husbandry” for a reason. And one of the duties is to ensure the perpetuation of a gene pool into the future, and sometimes that requires a modification to phenotype to remain relevant in the market. What does all this mean for an artist? Well, put it all together and it means it’s smart not to take breed rhetoric or mythology at face value. Being familiar with a breed’s objective history and archetypes, especially before modern or faddish pressures, is a good balance for making informed decisions. We should also be skeptical of what wins in today’s halter arenas only because these classes are highly vulnerable to questionable priorities. Being so, it's smart to take what breeders, trainers, and judges claim with a grain of salt. Very often some are too "immersed" to be objective about biology, anatomy, biomechanics, and genetics. 

Above all, we need to remember the evolutionary biology of the equine head. It's a study of economy—every bit is there in a specific way for a biological reason. Being so, it has very little fudge–factor for our aesthetics or misinterpretations. With so little room for error then, cranial structure cannot be fudged—we need to be clear about its construction to get it right. That's because so much about the equine head is literal with so much being subcutaneous flesh and bone. So if we make a mistake somewhere, that will likely develop into a systemic problem that will skew everything else. Yet, at the same time, it's easy to get confused since so much is interlaced together, alternately becoming deep and superficial layers. It's also made up of all the fleshy components of the body: bone, cartilage, fat, tissue, muscle, tendon, ligament, fascia, and hide, all of which are specialized for the head itself, giving us an array of effects we have to mimic properly in a relative tight space. Plus, facial muscles come in multiple forms. For example, some are flat or strap–like while others have fleshy muscle bellies like the Buccinators while still others are in-between like the Masseter. And on a thin-skinned, “dry” face, much of the fleshy delineation is often readily seen, making precision even more important. So when recreating fascial musculature in clay, we need to pay attention to these qualities when considering the shape and thickness of particular bits to avoid creating a head that’s too bulky, puffy, bulbous, or meaty, or alternately too skinny or angular. What's more, we have to pay close attention to detail and texture since the tiny aspects and surface topography of the hide on the face is so varied, "morphable," and variable between individuals or breeds. The ears, muzzle, and nostril exhibit a high degree of motility and sensitivity, too, and the brows and lower lid are fleshy and expressive, especially so with the upper lid and brow. All of these features have peculiar placements and angles indicative of an equine, too, which we also have to get right. And we also have to consider expression! All this conspires then to make sculpting the equine head especially tricky. Indeed, it's a part of the body most often flubbed up in sculpture for good reason. So it's a good idea to do lots of research, artistic exercises, checks and balances with proportional tools, life study, and of actually touching the heads of many horses to program their features into our hands. 

Nevertheless, we do have those handy general visualization guides to help us. For example, when we understand that the ear, eye, and nostril are important fleshy landmarks that are skeletally oriented, that gives us better use of an EENA template. Another to remember is that the head is mostly subcutaneous bone on the dorsal and ventral aspect, and mostly subcutaneous, fleshy muscle along the sides. For this reason, we need to sculpt the bony parts convincingly as bone and the fleshy bits as flesh; otherwise our head won’t be as believable as it could be. For instance, the hourglass–shaped nasal bone should appear hard while the cheek’s Buccinators should appear fleshy. In contrast, the ears, nostrils, and lower nasal portion are made of cartilage and should appear appropriately "bendy." For example, ear flute itself is relatively thin, making the ear malleable and able to be bent and distorted easily. 

As for the ear, it's built as a delicately fluted “scoop." The inner rim is rounded and more deeply curvaceous whereas the outside rim is flatter and less curved. Of special note is the “V” where the two rims meet at the bottom since it has some interesting features. In particular, the bottom of the curvaceous inner rim, near the "V," has a curious fold, twist, and crease which change as the ear rotates, a detail often missed by artists. Instead, many artists simply make this area a normal straight rim by mistake. The ears have wrinkles, too, which are typically located where the pinea meets the skull when rotation folds the skin. For example, when pricked–forwards, wrinkles can be found between the pinea and the head along the median line whereas if they’re laid back, wrinkles can be found along the back of the bulb. The pinea also often has visible veins, notably along the back of the flute and around the ear bulb, which really lend a sense of thin skin and fine hair for sculptures depicting hot bloods or even to imply athletic effort. Sculpting clipped ears can also better showcase a sculpture of a halter horse, and so note the soft, delicate ridges inside the ears. On the other hand, fuzzy, unclipped ears can be a wonderful touch for drafters, ponies, feral horses, or for those horses shown in a natural state. Note that the ear hair is oriented inwards or forwards and not so much outwards, towards the rims. Also minor faults such as Lop Ears can add a bit of character to a piece meant to be eccentric. Likewise, ears with nicks, cuts, missing tips, etc. can imply an interesting backstory which can be effective for sculptures of feral horses, ranch horses, wild horses, or roughstock. In fact, certain breeds have specifically notched ears for identification such as the Icelandic Horse. Ear tags might also be a curious option, accurate for certain populations tagged for research. And because ears are a consummate tool for adding life to a sculpture, their expressive qualities go far to impart genuine equine character and narrative. For example, his ears can be pricked and drawn together more when tense or intently focused on something, or drooping in a floppy “V” and slid a bit further down the sides of his crown when he’s sleepy, relaxed, or dozing off. They can be floppy and wobbly in response to motion, too, such as we see on some gaited horses (especially gaited mules), or when he’s shaking himself.

Ear size and shape can also be a function of breed, gender, and age. For example, smaller, curvy ears are typical of an Arabian as is the pronounced curl of the Marwari. On the other hand, larger, longer ears are typical of a mare, and proportionally larger ears are common with foals. What’s more, some breeds actually require the ears to be a certain length such as the Shetland with ears that shouldn’t exceed 5” long (13cm). Also, the ears may also seem to be placed closer together on the crown on some breeds such as the ASB, Kathwari, Marwari and Akhal–Teke. This is usually caused by the narrower structure of the crown of such breeds as compared to the Arabian or Quarter Horse who have wider crowns. Nonetheless, pay special attention to any varying attributes of the ear since individual nuance plays a role.

As for relative head width, it's also a function of individual variation, breed, and even gender and age. For instance, Arabians tend to be quite broad across the brows whereas Iberians can be quite narrow. Likewise, foals can appear broad across the brows thanks largely to the contrast with their undeveloped, narrow lower faces whereas old horses can appear more narrow due to the atrophy of collagen and flesh. Stallion heads can appear broader due to their cranial muscular development whereas mares can seem more slender. Paying attention to head width is important since it plays such a big part in both the appeal and believable breed type of our sculptures. On top of everything, the equine profile can also exhibit a spectrum of undulating characteristics distinctive to each horse—each of our noses are different and so are those of horses! So we need to pay special attention to the horse’s profile to capture breed type and individuality. Again, all this presses the issue of studying heads from multiple angles and using references from multiple views. Honestly, the more angles and dimensions familiar to us, the better we are at "3D printing" it out in our clay and so the better we become at identifying errors to troubleshoot them.

Conclusion to Part 14

That may be a lot to chew on, but we're not done yet! In Part 15, we'll continue with these artistic ideas and guides. Approaching the equine head from both an anatomical and artistic point of view can be helpful since each is symbiotic when it comes to equine realism. Truly, it's not enough to know about anatomy, we also have to translate what we know accurately and skillfully into clay. So while these two different skill sets need to be developed on their own terms, we also need to marry them together through our interpretative techniques. And that takes its own special care.

On that note, it's smart to interpret the equine head from multiple points of view. For example, from conformation and breed type to functionality and viability to expression and soul to overall beauty and appeal. All these concepts are interdependent and interdisciplinary because the head is a holistic system. Therefore, understanding how each feature is structured and functions separately as well as within the overall system really helps to clarify matters. To that end, we'll explore more artistic considerations in Part 15. So until next time…learn to See the equine head from many points of view to get the whole picture!

“I obliged myself to explore where I might otherwise not have. And that’s what ‘mind-flexing’ is all about – making those brain-muscles work so that you feel empowered to pursue your own vision.” ~ Tony Smibert

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