Right from the start of this project I was mostly looking at the relationships that the mining horses experienced, both with their environment and the miners themselves. In the first few weeks I briefly considered taking a couple of different routes, such as looking at cruelty and mistreatment of the horses, but I quickly scrapped this idea. I was also thinking about showing the equality/inequality between the miners and the horses. What I mean by this is that they both would work the same hours, have the same food breaks, the same holidays but if there was a disaster in the mine, like a collapse or a fire, the horses would very often be left to die whereas the men would be rescued.
I continued to look at the relationship between miner and horse but not in this context. Alongside that, I wanted to highlight the extreme difference between the horses’ natural environment, and the environment they were living and working in underground. One of the ways I considered doing this was to create a ‘tunnel book’, where the front layer of the book would be a landscape, with rolling fields and sunshine, and then we you went through each layer you would be taken deeper into the mine. I did a mini test of this in a sketchbook, and was neither here nor there about it. I’ve never been very good or a huge fan of papercut, which I was reminded of when I started doing this. I did carry forward the idea of being above ground vs being below ground, but ultimately I presented it in a different manner.
As I was working on these different routes, I was also making some sketches from the ‘Harnessed’ book that I’d bought from St Fagans. It was initially just as practise for drawing the tack that the mining horses wear, and to get some quick recordings to get myself comfortable drawing horses more regularly. I showed these drawings for the first time during the mock viva and they were well received. (Which, of course they were, they took me like 10 minutes and they weren’t supposed to be anything special.)
It was after this that I worked to find a balance between what I enjoy, and what was going to work in terms of illustration. I had spent a few days in the week before the viva doing an oil painted portrait of a horse, with the intention of taking that route forward for the rest of the project. Painting is what I get the most satisfaction from, but it isn’t necessarily always the most relevant approach. The rough sketches seemed like they would be a more appropriate method.