The Piper Project
The Piper Project

A few months back, I had the distinct honor of attending a workshop hosted in Seattle by TLC Workshops. It was my first art instruction of any kind, and I was at the hands of two masters: the astounding fantasy painter, Brom, and my own personal art hero, Iain McCaig.

In the course of just three days, we re-imagined the classic fairy tale, The Pied Piper, and turned it into a supernatural horror story told from the point of view of the rats. In that small span of time, myself and the other attendees kibitzed and drew an entire film, complete with concept art and storyboards. I was on the Piper team, one of five or six people who were responsible for defining the look of the Piper himself. One of my doodles is below:

As we started to research the history of the fairy tale itself, we concocted a history for the Piper that made him a world traveler, chasing the plague-ridden rats from Inner Mongolia and through Europe. In my head, part of his travels took him through Italy and Venice (where perhaps he donned the pied costume during Carnivale) and that’s where he picked up the mask you see above.

As we laid out our designs, all of our pages sitting side-by-side on the table, Brom and Iain walked slowly down the line, picking up certain elements from here and there and helping us refine the final image of the Piper of Hamelin. My mask was one of those things.

I cannot begin to express the little burst of pride I felt at that moment. Keep in mind… I was maybe the least talented person in that room. I was certainly the least experienced. But to have made the trip, to have done the work, to have contributed in some small way to the larger project made all the difference to me.

And that’s where I’m really going with this.

You can get serious stage fright if you’re in a room full of people whose talent far exceeds your own. But any one of those people will be the first to tell you that “talent” is just another word for “hard work.” They had all earned their bones. They had all logged the hours. In retrospect, there wasn’t much actual instruction during that workshop. Nobody critiqued my work and offered tips to make it better. But just by virtue of being there, of having taken the leap and put myself out there, I grew. As an artist. As a person.

Half of everything is showing up.

And maybe more than half.

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