Sunday, May 6, 2012

How To Draw Ponies by Thelwell

How To Draw Ponies hardback book (front cover)
“In the course of my work as an illustrator and cartoonist, I have drawn almost every subject under the sun at one time or another, or so it seems to me….But the most frequent question is ‘How do you draw those ponies?’ Why ponies should be singled out in this way, I am not sure, and the simple, truthful answer ‘The same way that I draw anything else’ does not seem to satisfy anyone.”

Thus begins the introduction to How To Draw Ponies by Thelwell published by Methuen Children’s Books Ltd., 1982.

How To Draw Ponies hardback book (back cover)
I have been a fan of Thelwell since my parents bought me Thelwell’s Horse Box when I was a little girl. Like many girls, I have been horse-crazy for most of my life. I have also been drawing horses for as long as I can remember. I still have scraps of paper from high school covered in sketches of ponies, fancy jumpers, and horses of all kinds.

I became aware of How To Draw Ponies recently after stumbling across of few poor scans of some of the pages on the Internet. To my amazement, I noticed that the text from one wobbly image from one half page from somewhere in this book was saying something about drawing horses that I had never heard before. That got my attention. When I looked into it further I realized that this page was from a drawing book written by Norman Thelwell. Wow! I just had to have it for my library. Long out of print and not in US libraries, How To Draw Ponies, proved an expensive book to acquire but well worth the effort.  

Unlike a more modern “How-To” art book, How To Draw Ponies is written to demand a rather higher level of consideration from the reader. It encourages a spirit of artistic experimentation that can appeal to a wide variety of readers from little kids to artists like myself (who are still kids at heart anyway.)

How To Draw Ponies interior page
How To Draw Ponies is filled with theories and opinions by Thelwell about how he went about drawing his ponies and other subjects. It covers topics ranging from the anatomy and structure of ponies, the basic shapes that make up a Thelwell pony and rider, the movement of the pony, expressions of his face and tail, drawing tools, the use of light and shadow, and the development of the cartoon from sketch to final. And all in less than 60 pages! It was nice to read a book that, although meant for children, is also quite useful for adults. As an added bonus it’s also filled with Thelwell illustrations that are particular to this little book.

How To Draw Ponies is not one of those “follow-along-with-me” art books that we are so familiar with today. Instead, it lays out Thelwell’s theories and thoughts on drawing and gives readers tools to play with. It encourages you to get out there and get some graphite and ink on your hands. It doesn’t hold your hand as much as encourage you to adventure.

“Come on everyone, let’s draw!” it tells you.

That’s just what I’m going to do this afternoon.


  1. My daughters and I loved Thelwell's ponies. I have really enjoyed seeing your drawings and just wanted to let you know.

    1. Thanks so much Toliver. I'm really glad you stopped by. :-)