Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 2: Animal inspiration

Yes, I was once one of those little girls who was horse crazy. I drew horses more than I drew anything else, I begged my parents until they broke down for riding lessons, and I read all the classic horse books and a lot of the more syrupy girl-meets-horse paperbacks besides. My absolute favorite though, was always 'The Black Stallion'.
My copy is an old, tan book with no dust jacket, showing a little wear. There's an 'Fa' in white on the spine, which would hint it was once a library copy, but there's nothing else on or in it to hint where from. I've had it ever since I can remember. I don't know where my parents got it, or when. I used to read and reread it, or just stare at the fantastic, bold, drawings, which look like they're done in black ink and brush. I used to admire it inside and out, carry it with me outside and leave it laying in the grass on a sunny afternoon, or run my smaller toy horses across the cover, pretending it was a sandy desert floor like where the Black Stallion came from. I dragged that book all over, and I took it with me when I moved.
Then a couple years ago, I was looking at details like copyright date and all forLibraryThing (which is a great site, if you have the ambition to catalog your own books), and realized that it seems to be a First Edition.
When I think of how careless I was with this thing, growing up. Except I guess I wasn't too bad, because the spine is just a little loose, but it's still in pretty good shape. You can read it without worrying that any pages are going to come loose or anything. More importantly, I loved the book. Loved it inside and out, for the story, the illustrations, and the way it was bound. I still love it.

Along with drawing horses like crazy, when I was a kid, I also made a lot of three-dimensional stand up ones. I couldn't tell you how I hit on the idea, but my mother says she can recall one day when I was drawing she saw it looked like the shape I was going for was roadkill, legs splayed out and all. She asked what I was drawing and I just said 'you'll see' and cut it out of the paper, and folded it, so that it stood up on its own. She asked me where I'd seen that trick and I told her I'd just figured it out.
I made lots of stand-up animals that way, but mostly horses. They were usually simple, and I refined the technique, cutting them on a folded edge of the paper and taping on a separate neck and head. I still have some of them, barely held together with yellowed tape, paper faded. I never really thought of them as art, more like simple toys. When I got old enough that I stopped making them, my parents and friends of my parents kept asking about them, or asking me to make them one. These late creations were more complex, lots of folding and separate leg pieces, true paper sculptures like this one. I haven't made one in years and years, but the prompt was your favorite animal, that led me to the book, which led me without even thinking about it to this.
I never used to worry about the simple, on-the-fold horses much, sometimes I didn't even draw my shape first, just started cutting. This one I spent a couple hours last night making a pattern for, out of printer paper. Granted, I actually didn't change the main pieces much from my very first try. The head, legs, and body sides are just what I first drew. It's the little extra pieces like the one along the back, and the top of the head that needed refining. I cut them out, taped it together with masking tape, pulled it apart again and made adjustments. I didn't get it traced onto black card stock and put together until today, and I was out of the house and without a camera or I would have taken a picture of the pattern pieces. Still, it's all put together with scotch tape. Some things never change, I guess. I used a little glue and some spare cheap doll hair, but in retrospect I probably could have made just as good or better with mane and tail out of paper, too. I was thinking of the Black Stallion, which is an Arabian horse, and I know my horse breeds so I was going for the classic tapering head shape. It wasn't until I photographed it with the book that I noticed the artist didn't make the Black look much like the breed he's supposed to be...
Anyway, it's a neat little paper sculpture, but like all of my paper horses it's fragile. Scotch tape isn't the greatest structural material. I know it won't last except in photos, and I have enough art cluttering the house. I guess I still think of them as more like cheap toys than high art.

The Black Stallion and an old friend.


  1. Thanks! Now that I've made him I don't know what to do with him, though.

  2. Wow, a first edition??? That's awesome! If you do figure out a way to make a more durable version of this, I'd love to see it in your Etsy shop!

  3. I guess I'll have to dig out the hot glue gun and see if I can make more durable paper stuff that way. It's so fragile though, I'm a little afraid to try shipping something like this.