So stoked to be finished with it. There were times when it was a bit of a grind. I got sick twice, and it was hard to make those pages during those times. A lot of times I would be up late the day before an upload, doped up on cold medicine, wondering why I decided to take this on.
There were moments of doubt, to be sure. In chapter 1 I remember thinking. “I just need to make it to page 10 before people lose interest.” After that, there was a push to the end of the chapter. If I could keep readers engaged to the end, they would understand what the story is about. By that point, I was hoping to know if Surfer Joe is any good, or if I was wasting my time.
The reaction seemed positive. People would ask me questions about the story or characters. They seemed genuinely interested. I still wasn’t sure… but there was something there worth pursuing. So I dove into the next entry.
I really enjoyed making the opening scene. Hiro’s apartment at night was a nice change of pace from the constant parking lot’s and lineups of chapter 1. Any time you are working with limited light sources and relying heavily on mood is going to be fun. It’s easier because there are fewer things to color and detail is limited. There is a sharp focus where the light pools are. Looks great, and easy to do.
But then I hit a wall when we got to Shobuta Beach. Page 29 took a lot more time than I was expecting, I barely finished it on time. I wanted to portray the area as accurately as possible. The story takes place pre-2011 earthquake, and I couldn’t find any pictures of the area so I had to draw it from memory. It’s a beautiful area, with lots of hills and trees. And the houses of the neighborhood come right to the beach.
As awesome as it is, it makes it hard to draw. Shinko, by comparison, is pretty easy. The parking lot is a huge elevated flat space, with industry smoke stacks in the distance. I panicked a bit on Page 30 and it shows in the artwork. I didn’t want to be in a crazy crunch again so I tried to work around the backgrounds by ditching them almost entirely. The page looks pretty silly, with a weird wash in the back of most panels and some lighting issues(panel 3 in particular).
I started putting backgrounds in sparingly after that but it wasn’t until Page 36 that I started to get comfortable with it. Once they were in the water I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. But I started to obsess a bit about raising the overall quality of the art. By the time I reached Page 41, the average time to make a page had doubled, and I was starting to have doubts about the pace of the story.
Because of the extra time the pages were taking, I stopped exercising regularly and eating well. I caught a nasty cold that ended up lasting 3 weeks, right when I was starting down the final stretch. I remember having a slight fever and trying to push through pages. It was a tough stretch and one that never seemed to end. I started missing upload deadlines, and morale was low for a while. I started to feel I was losing my sense of purpose.
Coming into my final 2 pages I started feeling better. I got off my but and started running and training every day again. It gave me more energy to do the pages, and the completion time started to come down again. I felt like I was able to maintain a higher level of quality as well.
When things are toughest is where the most growth happens. It may suck for a while, but if you fight through it, you will come out the other end stronger and wiser than when you went in. This is one of the many concepts that help shape the story of Joe and Hiro. I’m excited to see where their adventures take them.
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