Greetings and salutations, programs!
Now, I apologize in advance for any possible failings in this article as I’m mostly skilled in drawing or painting, than writing. I also want to take the time to say how immensely grateful I am for this opportunity to write for these awesome guys and gals at Rubber Chicken, and its amazing audience.
And with this out of the way, let’s get down to business shall we?
To all of you that are a bit unaware, there’s this little yearly event called Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn (THU to friends and fans), in sunny Tróia, Portugal. And being a first-time attendant this year (2016), my friends here have tasked me with presenting you with my own not-so-unique perspective of it.
But you ask: “why are you only now writing about an event that happened last September?”
It’s a good question. And I hope to give it a good answer… In truth, I wanted to let THU’s influence to wane out a bit so I wouldn’t describe it in the heat of the moment, and to allow for a more level-headed description; with the added benefit of retrospective in to the mix.
About the event itself, it’s Hosted by Scott Ross and André Lourenço – who are the founders, and it’s easily described as being an almost week-long intense series of daily conferences, starting around 8.30am and finishing near 3am (mostly, because the social part was quite active!).
But in truth, it’s way more than that! I would mostly describe it as a “Hardcore-Bootcamp-Crash-Course” for artists. It’s where a group of “select” few (professionals and some aspirants), gather from all the corners of the world to attend lectures, have their portfolios reviewed by some the creative industries’ giants and idols, and interact with everyone as much as they can, on a one-on-one level with no barriers of status or experience. In a spirit of pure tribalistic-like sharing, which I consider to be priceless.
Now, I do have a bit of a handicap. I’m not really good at mingling; and although I’m pretty jovial around familiar faces, I do take a lot of time to warm up to people. As I stress easily in unfamiliar places, and can’t start up a conversation to save my life… So, knowing that in advance, I was already pretty much a bit anxious before getting there.
See… there’s something that’s a bit unique about us artists – or creative types for the most part.
We have noisy minds in which we are deeply rooted in; walking a thin line between the angst of trying to process/make sense of the world we live in, and a need to bring onto the light everything that keeps rushing from within. We dream up worlds and new perspectives quite easily, and constantly. It’s our only way to stay sane… But it sometimes comes with a price.
We tend to stay shut inside our own little worlds; and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s comfortable there. Richer, brighter, much more diverse than what the “real” world can throw at us. In there, life actually makes sense.
So we tend to stay there, at a certain cost of overall worldly perspective. Professionally, that’s also a big truth. To this day, I have yet to find an artist that’s fully happy or comfortable with his/hers work, and professional life in general. We either feel stagnant, or, “too unworthy or unskilled” to move towards bigger and better things.
But why was it relevant for me to share this? Because as soon as I got off the ferry boat, I found out that there was only one specific rule at THU: no one stays alone. Ever.
Quickly I understood why everywhere I looked for references about the event, I saw so many mentions to The Tribe.
And in the opening ceremony they expanded a bit on this unique point of view. Inspite our somewhat solitudes, inspite being “isolated” in our studios, home offices, or jobs… We are connected. Brought together by similar tastes in stories, music, games, movies, comics, animation, and our desire to create. To bring beauty and innovation to the world around us. And this common state of mind; this diverse and rich, somewhat unified cultural language, can only be defined as a tribe.
And that tribe is “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
I began to get a little hyped. So, with this in mind, I voraciously plowed through every talk I could, scanning the daily programme, yet aware that I was definitely missing out on some amazing presentations. But what is life if not learning to make hard choices, right? So choices were made without regrets… I heard heartbreaking stories like Claire Wendling’s struggle to regain her skills after a debilitating illness, Ryan Woodward’s emotionally charged talk on how to manage the ups and downs that artists easily go through; Kevin Lima’s presentation on visual storytelling (that filled me with renewed confidence on my craft, since it was pretty identical to my own lectures on the subject), or Doug Chiang’s experience with over a decade working in Star Wars as well as his own personal and professional history. To name only a few.
Then, during those fiercly active days, talk after talk, it finally dawned on me…
This. This is the type of stuff we all should be getting acquainted with. There’s no secret that formal education isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be… Specially in creative fields where you mostly learn by doing and sharing. But this? This human factor of experience, the processes of success and failure, and how to manage them? This is unvaluable knowledge. The nitty gritty perspective of the not-so-glamorous side of working in the arts.
It’s easy for us to look up to these artistic giants and pretty much think that they’ve got it all figured out. But in reality, they’re going through exactly the same fears and aspirations that we all do… They’ve just been at this longer than most, just more visibly. And to know that there was such frailty, even among giants, it brought about some sense of easiness.
I wasn’t alone. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like an outsider. More importantly, I felt like an artist in a way I had not felt in over 15 years or so. I wanted to create freely! To draw. To paint. I jumped the small THU store at the lounge and the section reserved for wall art. I bought my first set of copic markers – or drawing material for the past five years or so for that matter – and made a huge, progressive, composition. It was amazing… a complete exercise in improvisation, where I just kept adding to it a bit everyday. Freely.
And the best part? People weren’t shy about coming by and share a few words on it, or, gifting me a glass of kraft beer for my effort. And in return, I found myself doing the same to others. Scanning their portfolios or sharing some sort of insight. It was… rewarding, finding out that people that I held in high artistic esteem were actually aware of my background and I found myself being equally appreciated.
Now, did this mean that I stopped feeling my introvertly anxious side of mine? Nope… (also… sorry to anyone I might’ve seemed to give a cold shoulder; it was just me being socially clumsy). But the community spirit made it somewhat maneageable; honestly, I felt like I was at home.
Thing is… Yeah. It felt odd when at the opening ceremony when I listened to Scott Ross’ closing lines: “Are you ready to be transformed??!”
Sounded a bit cultish for a first-timer. I was expecting to someone just to come out and started to sell you a toaster or a new matress… My inner sceptic kind of cringed a bit. But that was at the beginning.
By the week’s end, I was basically screaming MUAD’DIB!!! wherever I went – kudos if you get the reference.
And now, here I am. The result? Well… My daily drawing rhythm has slowed down a bit, early December, since the THU immediate creative burst. But I still have an active sketchbook – probably the first since 2004, with two bigger ones to follow up after; a personal book project coming along; and a renewed energy to do a lot of research and self-improvement on my skills.
Hell… Who would’ve guessed that one day I’d be actually happy to have a unicorn in my family crest? I’ll be going back next year, that’s for sure…
Article submitted and written by Filipe Teixeira