As with any artistic endeavor, this comic was fueled by time and passion, and as a result, began to take on a life of its own. After two weeks of steady work, the first deadline was looming abruptly – I lost all hope that the entirety of the first episode would be ready for the first update. This was, in fact, a structural blessing in disguise – the page break between the first and second halves of the episode creates a pause and some suspense.
A major facet of the learning experience of creating this episode was joining the ranks of the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople. This hardworking clan was founded by independent comic artist Nate Simpson, in his blog post Cracking the Code, describes the method he found by which he can be more productive. Simple, elegant, and incredible: waking up at 4 in the morning to work on your personal project. Instead of waiting until after a burning-out day at a full-time job, working on a passion in the wee hours of the morning can create better results and a happier you at work. Upon reading his blog, I realized that I’d used this technique successfully several years ago; Every morning my senior year of high school I woke up at around 5 to give myself at least an hour to hand-sew a quilt. I did this because handsewing was very soothing and it was a way to fool myself into looking forward to waking up in the morning. I relished getting up early because I loved the small achievement of at least 10 inches of seam, instead of dragging myself out of bed dreading a long, stressful day at school. Obviously this creative technique is not for everyone.
I found out the hard way on episode two when I fell off the #HOVD boat – going to bed early enough to be relatively or well rested at 4 in the morning is a challenge. Working on a comic is rather different from sewing – when I worked on the quilt, all the design issues were decided early in the process, and the rest of the time was spent following through with simple, careful labor. In working on Shadow of Ragnarok, every work session posed design issues and color choices. The difference is obvious, however. Most of the work for the first half of Episode 1 was done in 2-3 hour sessions over a two week period as a member of HOVD; the second half was done mostly in one long, late evening. This week for episode II I’m going to get back on the boat. Even though it is difficult to get up every day, even though it is cold and lonely*, the results are worth the extra effort. It is easy to forget the creative potential when one is embroiled in monotonous homework that easily causes one to stay up late. It is even easier to choose to go back to sleep when the early alarm does go off.
However, when I did get up at four and work for an hour or two or three, I went back to sleep at six or seven, for a nap until eight, I forgot most everything that I accomplished; it felt like a creative dream. Then that afternoon or the next morning I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. I haven’t done HOVD in an MRI (for several obvious reasons) but I’d hazard a hypothesis that abruptly waking from sleep at that time and working in a quiet, mostly dark, distraction-free environment makes it easier for the brain to enter into higher states of concentration.
*the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople is meant to provide comradare between other artists using the same method. However, it originates on the west coast, so here by the Chesapeake Bay this aspect is slightly less effective for me.