The Pied Piper

My latest illustration scene for Chicago Treasure by Larry Broutman features the Pied Piper.

We all know the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin - where the Piper plays his magical music and leads the mice/rats out of the town.

Recently there were news headlines that the city of Chicago has the highest population of rats in a major US city in the entire country.

This inspired Larry to add the Piper to our growing collection.  He took all kinds of photos of this young man playing a variety of instruments and we narrowed it down to this one as it provides a nice amount of gesture/movement while also maintaining a really nice overall silhouette of the character.

Then I began working on a sketch.  I knew I wanted the scene to be taking place in the heart of the city and to make it easy to identify as Chicago, the Chicago Theater sign and marquee were a perfect backdrop.  And I had my own reference images to work off of as I had done a plein air painting of the theater last spring.

Ink and watercolor plein air painting of the Chicago Theater

Ink and watercolor plein air painting of the Chicago Theater

So I started working out the perspective and the theater placement first (even though I end up adjusting the theater by making it a bit further forward in the scene so it appears larger and overlapping with the Piper). And I also started to work on the characters/expressions for the rats who are at the front of the pack and give joy/energy to the scene.

Early sketch and perspective setup

Early sketch and perspective setup

I also knew that along with the Piper and all of the rats that I wanted to add some other sort of comedic element and that is when I came up with the idea of placing a confused/alarmed bus driver seeing the endless trail of rats running along side his bus.

Final sketch

Final sketch

Once this was agreed upon, I began the work on digitally painting the scene.  I had to do a bunch of reworking of building details and angles and perspectives to get them right. I learned I clearly need to spend more time on them up front in the drawing stage going forward as it is much easier to adjust earlier on in the process.

Mid way through the painting process all done in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq Companion.

Mid way through the painting process all done in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq Companion.

The entire piece took me 23 hours total - in terms of sketching and painting.  But it took several more hours beyond that working out how to properly create the illusion of an infinite trail of rats.

Final illustrated scene.

Final illustrated scene.

We added some fun nods to NY as we like to imagine that is where the Piper is leading them all to find their new living accommodations.