Equine Art Adventures: The Legs

Sometimes drawing horses is intimidating. The horse has mane, tail, shoulders, legs, hooves, back, neck, long face, ears, hindquarters, and gut... and if one part looks off, the whole thing looks... well...

it can get overwhelming.

Over the past year, I've found that studying a small part of the horse at a time really helps the overall drawing knowledge. For this blog post, I'm starting with...

The legs. Let's face it. Legs are the hardest part. Each leg moves differently depending on pace, mood, and position, as well as body type, breed, and coordination.

So how do I conquer THAT?

With reference!

Nothing beats getting reference from life. For horses, I like feeling the bones in their legs, picking up their feet, and studying how weight is distributed.

I also go to www.colourizestock.deviantart.com for more (better) reference photos. Mine are okay, but Palle has a variety of different breed photos. Most of mine are plain colored quarter horses.

I like to study the pictures and mentally note where the bones are:


Horse anatomy is very easy to find and learn about. I recommend these books if you're not familiar very well with horse anatomy yet:

Force: Animal Drawing: Animal locomotion and design concepts for animators, by Michael D. Mattesi

How to Draw Animals, by Jack Hamm

Anatomy Drawing School, by Andras Szunyoghy


Once the Reference is collected, I do a ton of studies:


Some studies are better than others. Not all are good.
And that's okay.

The point of studying is not to become perfect but rather to learn more about how the horse works. Sometimes the most interesting horses are not perfect.

I love how horse designs in animation are really pushed. Just look at how exaggerated and stylized the legs get! They're definitely not perfect! But they are interesting!

  I love the designs of these horse legs. Especially Pegasus. His front cannons are super long. Khan's cannons are very thinned out. Buck's muscles are greatly exaggerated above the knee. Spirit and Angus' designs are closest to the actual horse anatomy, but still have plenty of stylization. Yet none of these horses look 'wrong'. When I realized this, it's like something clicked. Just how far can I push the horse's legs before it looked like a mess? Or not a horse leg anymore?

 

I love the designs of these horse legs. Especially Pegasus. His front cannons are super long. Khan's cannons are very thinned out. Buck's muscles are greatly exaggerated above the knee. Spirit and Angus' designs are closest to the actual horse anatomy, but still have plenty of stylization. Yet none of these horses look 'wrong'. When I realized this, it's like something clicked.

Just how far can I push the horse's legs before it looked like a mess? Or not a horse leg anymore?

Horse legs have always been a challenge for me, but I've found that through gathering reference, doing studies, seeing how other artists have handled the legs, I'm getting much better! And I know you can too!