Last year I was approached about doing a series of four elemental horses in the same style as my Planet Horses. I found the idea attractive, though due to the size of the project I recommended to my client that we take things one at a time. I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be the most wonderful person to work for, and after six months I can now happily share the completed series here! The originals have all gone to their commissioner, but I have prints available (click the image to go to the relevant page in my shop). Originals were 9″x12″, mixed media (watercolor, colored pencil and gel pen) on bristol board.
Like the Planet Horses, I chose to base each horse upon a real breed. For Ignis (fire) the Arabian was the obvious choice—not only because of their famous hot-bloodedness, but also because of their relative delicacy and flowing manes and tails. I wanted Ignis to look like a hot piece of metal, or an ember. The symbol for Ignis is one I created, and is meant to depict a fire over some sort of dish or other vessel.
Aura (wind) was an interesting challenge, since air is by nature practically invisible. I was also forced to confront the problem of what color to make her. In depictions of the four classical elements, I’ve seen the four primary colors +green used in many different combinations. I think Avatar: the Last Airbender got closest when they used blue for water, green for earth, red for fire, and yellow for wind… but I was still not happy with that. In the end I chose to go a different route: so with these horses, fire is represented by warm colors (red, orange, yellow, gold), water by cool colors (blue, green, purple), while wind and earth (being the other two opposing elements) are white and black respectively. Once I had that figured out Aura came together very quickly—though I added dashes of color here and there, to make her look more interesting and get a nice platinum sheen to her fur. She is modeled after a Thoroughbred horse, which ties in to the close connection between fire and wind (Thoroughbreds being heavily influenced by Arabian blood). Her symbol depicts turbulent air currents.
Aqua was another interesting challenge, since water can come in so many forms. I tried to give her mane and tail some elements of a waterfall, while her body is reminiscent of reflections of light upon a water’s surface. She is represented by a Norwegian Fjord horse—though without the distinctive mane trim, of course. Her symbol, predictably, has a wave motif and a globe—a reference to our own world being essentially one big ocean.
Finally, for Terra (earth) I decided to do something different with his pose. While all the other horses, up to this point, had been drawn in motion, I felt that Terra should be solid, immovable, like a boulder. And the wonderful thing about horses is that they can look beautiful just standing there. I also chose to forgo any allusion to wood or plants (usually associated with the earth element) and instead went for the raw thing. So Terra is mostly obsidian with quartz hooves, and his spine is split with lava pouring out. In this way he provides a bridge between Aqua and Ignis, since he embodies both liquid and fire at the same time. He was based on a Percheron draft horse, and his symbol is a mountain over an incomplete circle—which could represent the earth under the sky, or a volcano over the earth’s circular, molten core.
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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also contact her directly.