Team Roping Horse Sketch

There is a big outdoor arena in Morgan where local cowboys gather periodically during the summer to hold jackpot team ropings. They throw their entry money into a hat and pair up with different cowboys to test their skills and horses in various combinations. It’s pretty informal, just a bunch of guys (and sometimes gals!) getting together to have a good time roping.

When the event started, I was standing right by the gate where the ropers come out. In team roping there is a very tense moment just before the steer is released. The horses are poised in the box with muscles coiled like steel springs.

In an instant, they lunge from the box, hopefully not “breaking the barrier”, a thin line that is attached to the steer and across the box in front of the header's horse. The barrier is designed to give the steer a head start, and if it’s broken before it detaches, the team is assessed a 10-second penalty.

So it’s a lot of action in just a few seconds. Trying to capture the power and intensity of the chase was my goal for this composition of a team roping horse sketch. Let’s get drawing!

I decided to go with a closely cropped composition that emphasized the horses rather than the whole scene. These animals are highly trained and know their job. Besides, I just really like drawing horses!

The eye on this horse is my focal point. It was important to establish the values and get those dark darks in. The sun was just setting and the lighting was dramatic, with contrast and long shadows.

The nose is done! I was excited to get this part done. The drawing was looking washed out, but putting that dark background behind the intensely sunlit face of the horse made it pop. Just a side note – I didn’t like the shirt the cowboy was wearing, so I made my husband pose on a chair with a better one. That’s not him in the drawing, but it is his shirt!

With the two horses done, the drawing is getting interesting – lots of action! The steer is really dark black. I had to try some different pencils to get the super-dark value needed. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all about values in drawing to make it convincing.

I think I’m done! That steer really gave me fits but it looks pretty black to me. Sign it and take it to the printers. Thanks for stopping by! To see the finished drawing, click here.

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