Learning By Comparing

Two images, one of the oil painting and the other of the skull, comparing bony landmarks.

Ok, don't jump to conclusions, I am NOT finished with the Wickers portrait on the left! It is, however, slowly getting there, so I thought I'd take a break and show some anatomical landmarks from an actual equine skull, and where they are showing up on the oil painting.

The skull on the right is not Wicker's skull!! She is still alive and happily sleeping since at this moment, here in Virginia it's pretty warm & humid, so the horses are outside grazing overnight and sleeping in their stalls during the day. 

You can see that the skull (right) does not line up perfectly with Wicker's head. For example, Wicker's eye is lower down on her face, whereas her infraorbital foramen is higher. Of course, different ages, sizes and breeds of horses can all influence where features turn up. In addition, there can be anatomic anomalies (see "biology") that get thrown into the mix. 

When you're aiming for accuracy and believability, it helps to identify major bony landmarks to make sure you've included them and to also judge whether or not you are seeing and placing them correctly.

What's Below the Surface?

Three important areas for the artist to understand horse's anatomy
- There are three areas needing refinement. The artist will see how their location, size and shape affect the horse's surface anatomy (also see photo below).

- The top illustration is the original, and was introduced here. Circles on the above left illustration show the most important areas needing clarification.

- The top red circle (left), the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint,is the hinge between the horse's jaw and skull. On the right illustration, you can now see where the Coronoid Process of the mandible (lower jaw) passes behind the zygomatic arch, thus completing the joint. Take a look at these two images to see how this joint works.

- The lowest circle, where the upper and lower teeth meet, illustrates the meeting of the upper and lower teeth where the upper and lower teeth have been defined. Compare the hardness/boniness  of the area around the mouth to the softer skin of the nose and lower face. 

- In the medical illustration on the right above I've labelled other landmark features that can influence the artist's work. We'll get into their importance later; but here you can see important arteries, veins and nerves travelling through these "holes" (foramen) in the skull that can appear on the surface of a painting.

- Some common anatomy terms to help the artist recognize what their function is: