I can honestly say prior to starting this challenge I had never drawn a horse. I do have some basic drawing skills but illustrating animals is not one of those skills. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to only draw the same thing every day for 30 days, and see what happens.

If you came here to get tips on drawing horses I advise checking out this extremely in-depth tutorial: How to Draw Horses

Why?

The short answer is: I want to be better at drawing.

I feel like I have never put enough effort into drawing and illustration. I have read the theories and all the techniques about breaking subjects into basic shapes etc but have never really put my full ass into it. I have been half-assed, I draw a few stickmen and some shapes, I make a tiny bit of progress but ultimately I never accomplish anything.

So my plan was to draw the same subject every day for a month, more specifically the form and the structure. I figured the details can be added anytime and there is no point in adding detail to a poorly formed subject.

The reason I picked one subject matter exclusively (horses) was that I hoped any advancement in my skill would be more obvious. Rather than see a tiny improvement in my general abilities, I would be able to look back and see a clear improvement (if there was any).

I picked horses because I think they are beautiful creatures but mostly because I have never tried to draw them. And I think they are difficult.

My aim was not to shy away from difficult poses or avoid any difficult angles. Try to draw as many as possible and not get too *self-critical (impossible).

Head down and get on with it.

How

I alternated between drawing from photographs and trying to illustrate from my imagination. I looked at the anatomy and also followed other peoples tips and tutorials occasionally. For the most part, I went about it in my own way.

I used a pen a lot more than a pencil I don’t why exactly, I just prefer the look of ink. I was determined to do this exercise with traditional materials like pen, pencil and paper. The main reason for this is to reduce the amount of time I spend at a computer.

I wouldn’t dare try to give any lessons on drawing horses because I can barely do it myself. However, I found I had more success when imagined the form of a horse as a cylinder/barrel on legs.

The hardest part is definitely the proportions I struggled greatly with the ratio of the head in relation to the body. If you get it wrong the horse starts looking like a strange dog/horse/donkey hybrid.

The next troublesome area was the hind legs, they are quite tricky because of the resting pose which is always slightly bent. The next issue is the anatomy, a horse’s hind legs transition from thick slabs of muscle to thin sinewy legs which are a bit tricky.

To be honest I found everything difficult.

Results

The main results were lots and lots of balls-ups. initially, I was really happy with my first results but as time progressed I became more and more critical and frustrated. It started off fun and I was happy because although they weren’t amazing they did look like horses. However the more I practised the more I expected a return on my investment, this lead to a lot of frustration and ultimately it stalled my progress.

However, in the back of my mind, I knew that all practice is good practice. You always learn more from your mistakes.

I didn’t spend too much time on each sketch, it was my intention to do as many as possible and I usually filled a page per day. On average I would say I spent about 30 minutes per day drawing. A couple of days were 1 – 1/2 hour sessions.

Most artists only show you their best work which can put unrealistic expectations on the rest of us mere mortals. I could hand pick the best drawing I am the proudest of but I would be hiding a lot of crappy ones.

So here are a few of my worst:

Conclusion

Having reached the end of the 30 days I can look back and see an improvement. There are still many problem areas I need to work on but I am happy with my progress.

I am humbled, I think I expected too much too quickly. If I gained anything from my 30-day experiment it’s huge admiration for the masters. I had a taste of how much work and studying it really takes to master a subject.

What I learned about Illustration which never occurred to me before was this: You can’t draw what you don’t know.  I had never studied the proportions of a horse or how the muscles look so how on earth could I draw a believable horse from my imagination?

I know look at illustration as not just drawing from imagination, but drawing from memory in conjunction with the imagination.

Despite my whining and self-criticizing I do feel a sense of satisfaction and will definitely continue to practice drawing and studying horses. I highly recommend trying this 30-day challenge because you can feel your brain beginning to connect the dots.

Try picking a subject and drawing it every day for 30 days, you will only get better.

Will I give up? Nay!

Categories: Tips

David

Works part-time as a Graphic Designer and Website Designer. Studied Animation and has been using and learning design software for over 15 years.