This was how I made my imaginary friend Alex “real” and tangible: I had my grandmother help me make him into a stick horse!
Everything used to make him was something I found around my grandparents’ basement, attic, or in my crafting “busy box” that Grandmother kept well-stocked for me. Looking at him now, I can see how far I have come in making patterns: I didn’t allow for the seam on his face so his muzzle is much narrower than I had planned. I also probably would not have stuffed the ears today but instead made them out of a stiff fabric that could be shaped into ears. His mane was made of some very thin red yarn—it was all we had lying around that I could get my mitts on. If I did this today, I would give him a huge, full mane! His eyes, mouth and nose are felt cutouts, and his bridle is a combination of a white Christmas ribbon and the kind of thick yarn that we 1970s girls used to wear in our long hair. I’m not sure what the rings of the “bit” are made of (I also find it curious that I felt the need to control my imaginary friend, that I could communicate with, with a bridle).
The fabric of his head, neck and ears was something I found in Grandmother’s attic, which held an unbelievable hoard of fabric, boxes, craft items and old clothes. It was the closest I could find to my spotted pal’s color, but alas, there were only small pieces. You can see how Grandmother lovingly and carefully joined the pieces together in the seam across the middle of his neck. There is also a blue and white portion of this fabric that could not be avoided; it exists on his other side and you can sort of see it peeping out. Last but not least is the old green broom handle that Granddaddy sawed down to the right length. For a while the broom handle had been my “jungle spear” (Granddaddy had previously whittled it to a dull “point” )so I had to decide if I wanted to give it up for that. I did. Alex came together over the course of a couple of weekly visits to their house, and I kept him at their house to ride around the neighborhood. Other kids made fun of me but it never really bothered me that much. I mainly didn’t understand why they wouldn’t think it was fun. It really was! Our adventures included jumping over the big fallen log in my grandparents’ backyard; blazing a trail “out west”; and for some reason, marching in imaginary parades.
So that’s the story of Alex as a Stick Horse. Hope you enjoyed it!
Here is a very very personal blog post I would like to share with you, dear readers—my imaginary friend I had as a kid. I think I was ten years old or under. I had a couple of imaginary pals,but Alex here was the main one.
I know what implanted him in my brain—at my dentist’s office in the 1970’s, there was always this great book, Alexander by Harold Littledale. Essentially it is about a kid who is telling his dad about all the bad stuff his imaginary friend did that day, but the kid really had done the stuff and was outing it, with Alexander, the red horse with green stripes, as the scapegoat. It had really cool illustrations by Tom Vroman in it and I just loved it. I had to have my own Alexander.
So that nobody would think I was copying(seriously) I shortened my horse’s name to Alex. While he could do many of the things Alexander did, he still had more realistic horse ways about him and was more the proportions and size of a pony. He was red with white spots, and sometimes had a red mane/tail combo and sometimes a white one.
I had my grandmother make me a stick horse of Alex (which I will show in another post) and that furthered our adventures. I rode that thing all over the neighborhood. It’s funny; I see kids playing with them a lot these days, and I see stick horses in stores, but back then having one was social suicide. I didn’t care; I was already the weird kid. Plenty of kids I grew up with treated me like crap for it. I really didn’t see how it could get any worse.
I can’t seem to find it, but long ago I made a little book of Alex and drew pictures in it illustrating him in all sorts of vignettes, and I am hoping to recreate that with my new Alex Sketchbook.
Don’t be fooled by the cute name. The púca ,pooka, phouka, phooka, phooca, puca or púka–however you spell it—is considered to be a bringer both of good and bad fortune. In pookas’ various forms, they can help harvest or ruin an entire crop.
The pooka is a skilled shapeshifter, capable of assuming various pleasant or terrifying forms. A pooka can take a human form, but then will often have animal features, such as ears or a tail. It will most commonly appear as a horse, cat, rabbit, goat, or dog,or something in between, and almost always has a dark coat.
The pooka is a creature associated with the Samhain harvest festival, when the last of the crops are brought in. Often the reapers leave a small share of the crop as “The Pooka’s Share” to placate the beasts.
*Housekeeping note: This image was painted in ink, and for some reason refused to scan without being blurry. I had to take a photo of the page so it is a bit blurry for that reason as well, but believe me, it still looks better.
I should probably leave some grain out for the pooka.
Freiburg Minster (German: Freiburger Münster or Münster Unserer Lieben Frau) is the cathedral of Freiburg im Breisgau, southwest Germany. On one of its eaves is a rather cute, stocky horse gargoyle.
Phantomime Early Sketch, Carousel of Creeps, Copyright 2000 Liz Vitale
I always thought that, since Phantomime is reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera, it would be cool if his mask occasionally disappeared somehow and a horrific face was revealed underneath.
Spare Ribs, © 2015 Liz Vitale
When I was in high school,I was not in the band, but I was friends with band members and someone convinced me I should help with their Trail of Terror fundraiser during Halloween on year. I did and loved it, and I participated every year until we graduated.
One year I had a particularly ambitious project to make a ghost horse that I would strap onto my body and ride, with false legs hanging over the sides. Named Spare Ribs, the horse was made of a cardboard box for his body and I sculpted a foam head and covered him with I think about 2 miles worth of shredded sheet pieces. In the end, since I was dressed as a sort of ghoul anyway,I didn’t need the legs..Spare RIbs and I ended up being sort of an enormous shredded-looking ghostly blob out in the woods in the darkness, and that worked pretty well. 🙂
Horse Colors: Black, © 2015 Liz Vitale
I started a sketchbook to explore the hundreds of horse coat and color patterns out there. They can get surprisingly complicated. We’ll start off with the basics first.