Are you tired of painting or drawing horses with no feet?
Do all of your horse paintings show horses in deep grass.
Is the only thing keeping you from painting that sporting scene the idea – the fear! – of drawing all those feet?
I know exactly how you feel. Look at any of my early artwork and you’ll see very few feet. Lots of head studies and horses at pasture, but not many feet. As I write this post, I can see one sample in which a cantering horse still has no feet because they’re cleverly disguised by tall grass.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to tackle the subject of feet. Drawing feet. Painting feet. Sculpting feet.
As Unique as Fingerprints
A horse’s hoof structure is as unique as a human fingerprint. While the general shape may be the same or similar, the relationship of size, slope, heel, toe and a number of other details are unique from one horse to the next; sometimes from one hoof to the next.
If you’re working on a conformation pose such as Salt Lake in Colored Pencil, getting the shape of each hoof correct is as important as getting the hip or shoulder right. It’s less important in an action image, but it is still important.
In this clinic, I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw a standing hoof based on this reference photo.
Start with the overall shape. How long is the toe? How shallow is the heel? What angles are created between hoof and pastern?
Using light pressure and a medium softness drawing pencil (2H, HB or F, 2B) or a light colored colored pencil (Light Umber or a medium gray), sketch the basic contours. Don’t be afraid to erase and redraw as many times as necessary to get a good likeness.
I used an F graphite pencil. At this stage, I’ve drawn and redrawn the hoof to get the best possible shape and position.
Once you have the overall shape in place, begin placing details like the coronet band. Take your time working through this part of the process.
If it helps to do multiple drawings on tracing paper, take the time to do that. Lay a fresh piece of tracing paper over the current drawing and transfer the drawing. Refine it as you transfer it. Repeat the process as often as necessary because this is the best way not only to get an accurate drawing of this particular hoof, but to learn the basic structure for all hooves.
When you’re satisfied with Step 2, start with a fresh sheet of tracing paper. This time, as you transfer the drawing, begin adding smaller details. If the hoof is striped, add the stripes. Add leg markings if there are any. Don’t forget the growth rings and the shoe, if the horse is shod.
You can even do a little modeling if you want. Just to check the three-dimensionality of the drawing.
For this stage, I switched to a 6B graphite pencil to get a good, solid line drawing on tracing paper. The highlight on hoof was outlined with a dotted line. I used short, vertical strokes to draw the line between hair and hoof as well as outline the white coronet marking.
Bands around the coronet were drawn with a lighter line (lighter pressure) and shadows were drawn with a heavier line. The softer lead pencil facilitated the different types of lines I used.
The Finished Drawing
The drawing is now ready for whatever medium you’re working with. Whether you continue working with graphite for a finished study, create a study in colored pencil, oil, or some other medium, you’re now ready for the finishing work.
I recommend hoof studies for every work you do that shows feet, especially portraits. Every hoof is different and unique and a discerning and involved horse lover may very well be able to see that the hoof you’ve put on their equine companion is not that horse’s hoof.