Some followers of my work may be surprised that I can draw a horse. A horse is an extremely difficult thing to draw; the famous British equine painter George Stubbs once said that if you can draw a horse, you can draw anything.
Actually, from age seven to age 13, I didn’t draw a single human. All I drew were horses.
I was one of those little girls who both loved horses and was lucky enough to be around them. We had a ramshackle country house in Maine with a barn where we spent every August, and I spent July at riding camp for several years. In Maine we rented a horse for the month, and I took care of it.
I wanted to be a champion rider, at first, maybe on the USET, and then I discovered that I really preferred to ride my pony bareback, with a hackamore, rambling in the woods and fields and beaches. I didn’t actually ever want to learn any kind of rigorous discipline besides drawing.
During this period, I figured my commercial art career would be as horse book illustrator.
Because my father wrote books and knew tons of people in publishing, I actually got to go to Mr. Savitt’s farm and meet him.
This was akin to the time I got to meet Jack Kirby at San Diego just a year before his death.
Studying Sam Savitt’s books was the beginning of my process of obsessive study and learning around drawing.
Rich Rudish, who did several books with wildly popular horse book author Marguerite Henry, was an idol of mine as well. He was a superb draughtsman with a particularly wonderful talent for the dished faces of Arabians.
Looking him up for this article I learned he created Rainbow Brite for Hallmark in 1986!
He sculpted the famous model of Henry’s Sham for Breyer. It is still one of the most beautiful Breyers ever made, I think. (I hope to build a stable for my dollhouse next year and house some of my Classic Breyers in it, so my action figures can go riding!)
I also liked Henry’s longtime collaborator, Wesley Dennis, though I felt his drawing skills weren’t as solid as Savitt’s. I dreamed of having a working relationship with an author like Henry. I didn’t want to write my own stories; I just wanted to draw the pictures.
A great role model was Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of the nineteenth century, who dressed à la garçonne (in men’s clothing), and kept lions for pets. I felt her brio and power like a lifeline.
She was proof that women could make art that was as bold and fearless as men’s. I didn’t want to draw anything fragile or weak- I wanted my work to be a true draughtsman’s, absolutely grounded in anatomy and technical knowledge.
Here is her masterpiece, The Horse Fair.
By seventeen my career plans had changed, and all I wanted in the world was to draw comics.
But you keep the skills learned as a child forever. I remember sitting on the hallway floor in the old Marvel offices with my friend Chris Claremont in ’86. We were talking with Bill Sienkiewicz, who was at the height of his stardom, and the subject of horses came up. So I taught Bill Sam Savitt’s technique for drawing the horse, there in the hallway at 387.
This Moon Knight page is from before he met me! Look at where the browband of the bridle is! Absolutely shocking 😉
Knowing how to draw a horse gave me the understanding to draw cats and dogs and goats and deer as well. And I do love to draw a goat. Especially baby goats.
I don’t have cause to draw horses very often anymore, and that’s too bad.
Maybe I’ll find a portrait client here in Berlin who wants a picture with their horse, or their goat!