Monday, October 14, 2013

What the Highlander Taught Me About Being an Artist

Editors note: The highlander in reference is the One True Highlander, Duncan Macleod (played by Adrain Paul), not that pretender Connor (played by Christopher Lambert). This is a controversial topic which I won't go into any further. Please enjoy the rest of the article.

1. Style is something you cultivate, not obtain.

Duncan didn't pick out his katana on based on reviews and ratings, it was crafted and given to him by a powerful Japanese sensei. He didn't drive down to TJ Maxx and pick out a ponytail brooch because he kinda liked how it looked on some other highlander. I don't know where he got that sick ponytail brooch. Probably it was a gift from an Irish princess after a week of love making and adventure. His fine blouses were probably all made from silk that came from silk worms he raised for generation after generation since obtaining them in China in the late 1600s. The point is, Duncan's style stemmed from his experience and past. Not from what he hoped to be in the future.

2. You are never done learning.

Every episode had a training montage, because Macleod understood that you can always forget, but you can never stop learning. This gave him a great advantage over other immortals who stopped learning how to sword fight and divided their energy with other useless skills like pantomime or video games or writing blogs. All masters know this, but it's hard for us to see because we don't have the vision that they do.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of friendship.

The underlying rule in Highlander is "there can be only one", but Duncan Macleod always gave second chances, and even rescued immortals who would have taken his quickening given half the chance. Often, these immortals returned to help him when he was at his lowest, even saving his life from time to time. Putting yourself first without helping others is a good way to isolate yourself, and people will surprise you with what they have to offer when you least expect it. So pass on your knowledge and support, and some great things will come your way. It's not just about being the best, you should also strive to elevate the playing field.

4. Some rules are sacrosanct.

Never fight on holy ground, and never be late on a deadline.

5. Love often, love hard.

We've all done it. Maybe the deadline was too short and you gave yourself too many projects, or maybe you phoned it in because the pay was low. But regardless of the woman, Duncan Macleod always poured every ounce of himself into his love making, regardless of whether it was a one night stand with the Duchess of York, or a romantic evening with his life's greatest love (Tessa-something). It's important to always set the priority to be whatever project it is at hand. If a project is too small, don't take it. But if you do take it, give it everything you've got.

6. Imbue your tools with the essence of your soul.

Duncan's sword was made with the greatest of care by history's finest Japanese bladesmith and it withstood decades of abuse. But Duncan could have bought it from Wal-Mart and would still be able to defeat even the most powerful immortal, because despite your tools, it is what you bring to the artist's table from within -- the skills, experience, ideas, and practice -- that make you the artist that you are. Granted, using the right tools is also important, but even the greatest tools are nothing without the right person to wield them.

7. Carry on.

Many see Duncan Macleod as sort of an infallible Adonis, but we all know that he struggled with loss and doubt. What set the Highlander apart was his willingness to pick himself up and carry on, even after being discarded by his clan, losing Darius and Tessa, and even having to kill his demon possessed protege, Richie (spoilers). The best of us experience failures and set backs, and some of the greatest artists I've known have almost quit painting after periods of struggling, but those who become masters are those who are able to persist.