Horse and Dog (Gift)

A friend of mine commissioned me to make her a sculpture as a wedding gift. It was designed as a pie topper to be 3D printed (excluding the reins and lead rope). She requested "a topper that was a work horse playing with a border collie". My design was of a dog leading a horse in a circle by pulling its lead rope in its mouth. I adjusted both animals' postures as if to mimic the other and tried to create as much flow and rhythm in the simple gesture.

Having primarily sculpted human anatomy up to this point and having collected Ellenberger's and Goldfinger's excellent animal anatomy reference books, I set to work designing and sculpting this piece. I approached it as if I knew nothing about animal forms because I really didn't. I skimmed through Marshall Vandruff's course on Animal Anatomy for Artists, sketched countless gesture sketches of animals, and gathered a massive collection of reference images to support my sculpting. Along the way I stuck my phone's camera in the nooks and crannies my family's horses (which aren't really my expertise). This was really helpful for getting an idea how skin stretched across less photographed surfaces of the horse like the armpits, stomach, under the chin, around the ears, nostrils, etc. I did the same with my shaggy dog whenever I caught it rolling over.

The finished sculpture is the result of dozens of passes over the various muscles, forms, and fur. The earlier stages were more schematic, laying the surface forms out as best as I could understand them with all of the anatomical information poured into my brain all at once. In the final passes on the horse I attempted to assess the actual flexors and extensors of the limbs in order to better predict which muscles were tensed and I hope I've done a decent job of it.

Along the way I sculpted the two more complex bones of a horse's body: the skull and pelvis. These were both incredibly useful for understanding the horses that I was sketching in a more meaningful way. I used the smallest estimated size of a Percheron and the largest estimate for a border collie in order to scale the piece for printing and even read up on the proper gait for a horse in order to ensure that the animals' legs would be raised at the correct times.

My friend was happy with the way the prints turned out. The reins and lead rope were left out of the print.