So the horse doesn't have a head. Still, the drawing of two revolutionary soldiers with smoking muskets -- and a headless horse -- could make John Henry Johnson the youngest artist to design a U.S. postage stamp.
John Henry is 8, and his drawing is in honor of the 250th anniversary of George Washington's birth, which will be celebrated next February.
John Henry and his third-grade classmates at Ravensworth Elementary School in Springfield were among 2,000 youngsters who entered a contest sponsored in September by the National Art Education Association and the U.S. Postal Service. The challenge was to design a stamp commemorating Washington's birthday. Since the Postal Service wanted "childlike drawings," the art association asked that entries be restricted to first, second and third graders.
Word came several weeks ago that John Henry's drawing of the two soldiers and the headless horse was one of 10 being considered by the Postal Service.
"I fell off my chair," John Henry said the other day, recalling his reaction to the news that he was a finalist.
A citizens committee will make the final decision on the stamp, and Postal Service officials say they do not know when that decision will be made.
As John Henry discuses his recent success, his hands are full of crayons. He is working on another masterpiece, which takes shape on a sheet of white construction paper he has spread out on a small table at school. The drawing is of a robot, which John Henry eventually titles "The Deth [sic] Star." i
John Henry's medium is crayon, and his whole body moves as he runs a black crayon across the paper for the robot drawing. For more intricate work, he presses his face to the table where he is working. The technique is his own.
"I've never had an art class," John Henry says. "I teach myself at home."
He also confesses that drawing comes easily. "I did that picture [the contest drawing] in two minutes and 30 seconds," he says with a giggle. "I'm always the first one done."
John Henry says he is not sure if he will follow an art career when he grows up, but admits spending all his spare time "either doing homework or drawing." (Later, he confides that his favorite subject at school is music, and that he plays the violin at home).
In a candid moment, John Henry says his favorite president was not Washington, but Lincoln.
How would he have drawn Lincoln? John Henry thinks for a moment, then replies: "I would've drawn a portrait of him."
Discussing his famous work commemorating the first president, John Henry says he was told to draw a picture for Washington's birthday and remembered "all the battles he fought." He has no explanation for the headless horse, however.
John Henry already has decided how he wants to celebrate if his picture wins the contest:
"I hope my dad will take me out to McDonald's."