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I don't know whether I should ride or swat it.

Well, it only took me four months (when it comes to producing artwork, I'm awfully lazy these days), but I finally got ambitious enough to make a new figurine!

The Rocking-Horse-Fly is one of the many strange creatures that Alice encounters during her adventures in Wonderland. The buzzing filly's design amounts to a simple, but highly-effective, pun on the names and physiology of a child's rocking-horse toy and a horsefly insect. The diminutive beast first appeared in the pages of Lewis Carroll's (the well-known pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) 1871 Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, but my figure is based on the cartoon version seen in Disney's 1951 Alice in Wonderland animated film, which, while not strictly accurate to the printed source material, is still my favorite rendition of the story and characters. For example, in the case of the Rocking-Horse-Fly, it easily flits through the air on its wings in said movie, but, in the book, its method of getting about is described as swinging from branch-to-branch, which would seem to imply that the creature wasn't capable of achieving flight at all (although, when it comes to Wonderland, it's probably best not to make assumptions about that or anything else). Interestingly, Carroll's tome also informs us that the animal's diet consists of nothing but sawdust and sap and that the Rocking-Horse-Fly itself is made entirely out of wood (as my figure is mostly paper and cardboard, which both come from trees, at least I'm in the ballpark as far as that little tidbit of the fiction is concerned).

Below is a screenshot, from said movie, of Alice being startled by the bizarre insect/horse hybrid:

And this is the original black and white illustration (by John Tenniel) of the Rocking-Horse-Fly from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. I find it interesting that the artist chose to incorporate dice shapes, and their pip marks, into the horse's body. I believe real horses can be spotted, but, otherwise, I'm not sure what the connection could be between dice, horses, and flies. Gambling maybe?

The initial ink sketches/measurements I drew up prior to beginning work on my figure:

I started off by fabricating the runners, which consist of 4-ply cardboard, from a box of cereal (Peanut Butter Cinnamon Toast Crunch--yum!) and newsprint glued together into 3-Dimensional sandwiches. Next, I began work on the horse's body and head/neck (which looked an awful lot like a seahorse to me at this point). I cut the equine shape out of cardboard and then roughed out the anatomy by applying several pieces of my "Kleenex Putty" (white glue mixed with tissue paper) to both sides of that flat form.

Next, I wrapped the body in strips of newsprint and further developed the head (adding ears, nostrils, cheeks, a mouth, and eyes). With that part of the anatomy pretty well done for the moment, I turned my attention to the limbs. All four legs started out as hollow, 2.5 cm long, newsprint tubes (formed around the shaft of a fine sewing needle) which I then modified with the addition of more paper (both newsprint and tissue) to create the hooves and bone/muscle structure. The limbs also have bendable wire running through their entire lengths, both for internal structural support (long, narrow shapes like those tend to break if you so much as look at them funny) and to allow me to later tweak their positioning after they had been joined to the body (which was important when it came to mounting the hooves on the runners).

Here's what the horse and runners looked like fully assembled and after being smoothed/hardened with my woodburner (the darker brown areas are scorch marks). Ignoring the hooves, the animal kind of looks more like a classical depiction of an Egyptian jackal to me at this stage of the process (Anubis, and the other gods and goddesses, had to get around on rocking chair skis, what with Egypt being buried under several feet of snow year round and all). This was also the cutoff point where I stopped working on the model for several days (remember: lazy).

When I finally got back to this project, six days later, I fabricated the saddle, tail, and wings, and began the final painting and assembly process. I sketched out the wing shape and veins on a sheet of lined paper (pictured below) and then laid a piece of transparent plastic (from a toy package) over that and traced/embossed the lines onto the plastic with a pen and then cut them out.

Unfortunately, the runners snapped off of the hooves while I was painting the horse, which, while slightly annoying, did make things easier, as I didn't have to worry about accidentally getting the yellow paint onto the red, or vice versa, and the runners were easy enough to glue back onto the hooves afterwards, so, no harm no foul.

The mane is embroidery floss that I carefully glued into place, in small bunches, one at a time. I contemplated doing the tail the same way, but I reasoned that it would probably be difficult to get the floss strands to lay together in the shape that I wanted without also applying some kind of adhesive or styling product to them, so, I went with a solid sculpt instead. The thread is a lot brighter red than the paint is, but I can live with the difference, and brushing her soft locks with my fingertip is very relaxing, so, it was totally worth it.

I was sorely tempted to leave the big, wild hair in its original state, instead of trimming it down, because I liked the way that looked, but I ultimately went for accuracy. Her mane also reminds me of Uncanny X-men Storm's 1980s mohawk, which is my favorite look for that particular comic book character.

Here's a photo collage of the finished product. I don't own an actual Alice doll, so I made do with my MGA BFC Ink Nicolette instead.

Newsprint, cardboard from a box of cereal, tissue paper, white paper, white glue, wire twist ties,
transparent plastic sheeting from a toy package, embroidery floss, ink, and acrylic paint.

4.2 cm (1.7") wide x 5.7 cm (2.2") long x 7.5 cm (3.0") high.
Excluding the wings and mane, the figure is 4.7 cm (1.9") tall and 2.0 cm (0.8") wide.

Three days; January 2nd, 8th, and 9th (2016).
This was my first art project of the New Year!


  •   Disney Madness MIDI music file collection.

  •   Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
    By Lewis Carroll (a.k.a., Charles Lutwidge Dodgson).
    First printed in 1871, but I used the digital public domain file found at the Gutenberg Project.

  •   Wikipedia Alice in Wonderland (1951 film), Through the Looking-Glass, and List of Creatures in Wonderland articles.

  • « Return to my Miscellaneous Artwork Gallery Index Page

    This is a nonprofit web site.

    Any and all copyrighted imagery, terminology, etc., depicted on this page belongs to its respective holders/owners, namely Disney.

    The repeating background graphic is a still from Disney's Alice in Wonderland film depicting the March Hare conducting an "orchestra" of tea pots.

    The MIDI music playing is the "I'm Late" theme from Disney's Alice in Wonderland animated film.