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.

Painting What You See and Know

Medical illustration showing the correct positioning of the head and neck in the horse.
- At this point I want to examine the horse's head and neck anatomy. When I'm painting something I want to be accurate and realistic, it always helps to understand what I'm painting beneath the surface as well as on top.
- I've gotten some real bones (C1 - C3; "C" is cervical) from a great horse buddy to add to the horse skull I already have. 
- I want to know what the shapes are that I'm starting to paint on Wicker's portrait and make sure they're in the right size and place.  
- Compare the oil painting stage of the Wicker's portrait below to the bony landmarks labelled on the left. Although the view is lateral, whereas Wicker's head is slightly turned, I can still see bony landmarks that are important to show and paint correctly.
- To make certain I'm doing this kind of research accurately,I've referred to many equine anatomy books as well as real bones to do the medical illustration above. What's difficult about it is that the reference books are all over the map! I realize all horses are different, so I'm trying to find an acceptable standard.
- Note the location of the poll (occipital crest and C1; anatomically the occipital crest itself is the "poll") labeled above the C1/ atlas. Wickers the Warmblood is an upper level dressage horse, and I can see that she has been ridden correctly because her poll area is well developed and muscular. 
- Incorrect riding ("rollkur") can be seen in the poll of the horse at this link; note that the neck "breaks" further down the neck than it should. This kind of riding can lead to many problems in a horse's anatomy and physiology.