As a Child She Wanted a Horse; Now She Has Reams of Them

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Like many “horse-crazy” young girls, Marynn Morioka of Tustin dreamed for years about owning a horse. Her daydreams took form on paper, eventually leading her to a career as an equestrian illustrator.

“I’ve been drawing horses since I was 5 years old,” says Morioka, 23, who several months ago opened her own art business, Inx Graphix, in Tustin. While she does free-lance illustrations for horse owners and stable owners, Morioka’s main product has become a series of paper-doll horses.

Sold nationally by mail through Horse Illustrated magazine and locally at three retail outlets in Orange County, her horse figures are available in three breeds: Quarter Horse, Arabian and Thoroughbred. They come with English and Western accessories, including riders, saddles and a blanket.

Who buys paper-doll horses? “Mostly adults, particularly those who are 50 and up, from the generation that remembers growing up with paper dolls,” says Morioka. The figures, which have been sold as far away as Pennsylvania, Alabama and North Dakota, also are popular with children from 6 to 13.


Store owners who carry the product have told Morioka that customers who collect paper dolls often buy the horse figures for their collections. And a large Arabian horse ranch purchased some for promotional use in advertising their farm and their horses for sale.

The Arabian figure is Morioka’s favorite among the breeds she offers. “I really went for detail on the Arabian--from the classic dished face to the tail carried high,” she says.

“Arabians have big eyes, a small body and thin legs, and they tend to stand with one hind foot back, instead of standing square.” While creating the figure, she studied photographs of the breed in horse magazines and consulted with friends who raise Arabians.

The most difficult part in creating her figures was not drawing the horses, she says, but selecting the proper paper that would absorb color from felt-tipped pens without bleeding through. She worked with a printer to select varying grades of paper for the riders, saddles and horses. Because the bridle was too small and intricate to be die-cut by the printer, she drew the headstall on the horse. Each package includes a piece of string to attach and use as reins.


To help those who buy her uncolored horse figures shade them realistically, Morioka includes some drawing tips in each package, such as how to make the horse’s tail look shiny.

She developed her appreciation for horses as an art form from her childhood collection of Breyer figurine horses. “Most little girls put their Barbie dolls in toy cars to play; I put mine on horses,” she says. She also used the realistic-looking Breyer figurines as models for her early drawings.

Morioka’s experience with horses, however, has not been all vicarious. Her dream of owning a horse materialized when she was in junior high school and her parents gave her a Morgan-Appaloosa cross. She “lived, ate and breathed” horses while she owned the Western pleasure horse, but sold him just before she went to college at UC Irvine.

She plans to add three to six breeds per year to her line. The next products she develops will include performance horses, such as Lippizans rearing up in a levade, show jumpers clearing obstacles and riders in various outfits and poses.

Morioka’s horse paper dolls, which sell for $5 each plus tax, are available locally at Karen’s Dolls & Bears in San Juan Capistrano, The General Store at the Balboa Pavilion and The Feed Barn in Orange. For more information, write: Inx Graphix Illustration, 17300 17th St., Suite J-367, Tustin, 92680, or call (714) 730-9768.

Darlene Sordillo, an author of two books on horse training, covers equestrian sports for The Times. Readers may send horse-related news to her at: Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, 92626.