Art Elements April Theme Challenge: Horses

Over at Art Elements, we decided the current monthly component of the month challenge was beginning to feel stale. So we decided to mix things up by revamping the format into monthly themed challenges with a giveaway drawing for a randomly selected guest participant. For the month of April, the theme was horses. It can be any media, any technique, and open to every maker, it just needs to somehow be an interpretation of the theme. 

The photo above is one I took while visiting my AE teammate and friend Lesley Watt. We drove through the New Forest area and  met some woodland friends. 

I was not feeling very inspired by the theme, which thinking about it now is kind of bizarre. Let me tell you the reasons why: 

  1. Around the ages 9-12 I was horse obsessed. I read horse books, wrote horse stories, took riding lessons, went to horse riding overnight camp, jumped horses, begged my parents to buy me a horse, dreamed up schemes to buy myself a horse, decided I was going to be a jockey, was going to own a horse farm as soon as I was an adult. When my dad was telling me I'd have to take care of him in old age and he would move in with me, I informed him he could live above the horses in the horse barn. I was clearly a very charming and caring child. 
  2. For 3 years as an adult, we lived in a house where the back yard backed up to a horse farm. The horses would come up to the fence bordering our property to say hello and sometimes we would sneak them carrots. I loved that view. Plus we had the benefits of a horse farm without any of the work or expense. 
  3. We once spent a week in a beach house in Corolla, NC where horses run wild. It was amazing. 

I wracked my brain all month trying to think of something that felt like inspiration. Nothing. I considered cutting my own horse stencil from acetate to use for gel printing (my current obsession, which, if you haven't read any of my recent posts like this one or this one here on Art Elements or you don't follow me on Instagram, you would have no idea that had happened.)

Early in 2018, I started playing with carving my own ink blocks in Speedball Speedy Carve Carving Block. You can read Part I here and Part II here.  Shortly after those first attempts I started with monoprinting and carving ink blocks got put aside. So I decided to do my own linoprint for this challenge. 

First I took a smal piece of block to make some marks in because it had been so long since the last time I did that I wanted to practice before putting gouge to very large piece of block. Then for the fun of it, I used a regular ink pad to try out the design. It's ok. Nothing exciting. 

After considering what I wanted it to look like and what my expectations were of my current, very minimal skills, I drew up a rough sketch on deli paper of what I wanted. Except I could not draw a tiny horse to save my life. I wanted the horse to be the focal, but also tiny in the distance, but also dramatic. Everytime I tried to draw it, the proportions we SO BAD!!! So finally I found a photo of a horse in a pose similar to what I had in mind, shrunk it, printed it out and traced the shape onto deli paper. 


Then I cut a 6"x9" piece of speedy carve from my 12"x12" piece. 

I colored in the horse and traced some of the lines with a pencil on the back side of the deli paper, placed the paper on top of the block and burnished it so the image transferred to the block. The photo below shows just after I transferred the image to the block. I added more details, went over some lines in Sharpie so that the graphite wouldn't get erased by my hands and arms brushing across the top.

Then I started carving. The next several photos show the carving in progress. 





At this point, I had been working prep work plus carving for about 5-6 hours with only one short break, and my neck and back were screaming in agony. Plus I needed to meet a friend for dinner. 

During this break I thought I would take a photo of my carving kit. I bought this darling notions bag (there's a fox on the back!) in February when I stopped by to visit AE teammate Lindsay in Nashville on my way from picking my car up in Florida (long story). She took me to a fantastic yarn shop called Haus of Yarn.


When I got home from dinner, I started carving again. This was the last photo I took before I took my first print to see how the design looked. 


The design was ok, but I really hated the trees. I was going for scribbly, but got too uniform for my taste. Plus I needed to do some minor clean-up. I took the photo below at about 12:30am. I couldn't do another thing to this piece I was so tired. 


I had high hopes of having this completed, printed, and in a frame by the reveal, but I ended up being gone all day yesterday, so no time to finish. However, I did stop by Michaels to buy some ink block ink and a brayer to be used specifically for block printing purpses and a frame to put the piece into. Unfortunately I ran out of time. However, I'm super happy with how it came out. Other than the trees, it's exactly how I imagined it would look. Below is the 3rd test print I made to see how it was progressing. By then I was so exhausted, I called it good for now. For the practice prints, I use staz-on ink to ink the block, but look forward to trying the block ink. 


This is a blog hop. Please visit everyone listed below.   to see what they've created. 












AE Team Members:




Jen  <-----YOU ARE HERE







Jill Egan

wow this was really worth all the time to carve, it looks great


I was really curious how this would turn out and love the test print! Really curious how this will turn out in the end. You know what my favorite part is and something I may steal... ehm.... be inspired by? It is your moon! It would also make such a great stamp by itself. Just love the inter-winding lines!

Anita Rao

That really took time and patience, and the gorgeous results so make it worth the while. Your practice print looks like an illustration to a fairy tale.

Laney Mead

I love this Jenny. I could imagine being up on the Brecon Beacons, with the hill mist just swirling at eye level, the world disappearing and leaving me alone in the wilds watching the horses on the edge of the mountains. This piece is very ethereal and evocative. Beautiful.

Lesley Watt

Horses have to be one of the hardest things to draw and your improvisation was exactly what I'd have done. I love your composition with lots of movement to create the feeling of something wild and free.


I love that you took the time to draw and carve out this image for this theme. I think what came out of you is fantastic - and I agree that one can easily let the mind it take you there to look upon this scene...


I love how you creatively got around not being able to draw the horse small enough and I throughly enjoyed seeing your carving progress it's almost medative watching the carving process and the out come so far is well worth all the effort, its amazing how you managed to catch so much movement in your carving, beautiful!


That looks amazing so far, looking forward to seeing your finished prints. I disagree about the trees, I think they look perfect, I like the contrast they give wit the light and dark panels through the design.


OMGoddess!! I love the clouds, so swirly ... your test print is great! Can't wait to see your final print on Ig.
When you mentioned your yard backed up against a horse ranch, it reminded me of our first house in Whittier, CA in the late 70s / early 80s. One of the houses adjoining our backyard had a couple of horses and roosters. The horses would come and hang out over the brick fence hungry for some petting and the Valencia oranges on the tree too close to the property line! I was scared of the horses then, but thanks for bringing a good memory to mind again ...


I am so impressed with your stamp carving skills! The amount of time you spent carving is crazy but so worth it. I love the overall design-the swirling wind is just perfect. I think the trees are cool. Can't wait to see what happens when you use the block printing ink. I think it will be a masterpiece. Glad you joined in this month!


What a spectacular stamp. The scene you sketched is gorgeous and I can only imagine how much time it takes to carve all that detail I love all the flowing curving lines. Everything about it says "wild and free" to me.

Susan Kennedy

Thanks for showing your process - since I've never done anything like this, I am duly impressed! I like the trees too, but if you don't, I think it would still be an awesome print if you took them off!


Love the whimsical design in your carved piece!


Wow - I love the process of you carving the piece. There is so much detail in the carving and I love how it turned out. Thank you for sharing the process because I had no idea how much goes into carving an image.

Jennifer Davies-Reazor

I love that you dove in to a rather complex design. It has a great composition. You could slice the trees off and print it with or without- depending on your mood. I’m really intrigued by interlocking prints. If I ever get back to my studio....

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