I met a girl from Maui in 2004. We fell in love but she was shy. I’m someone who overshares. I overshare because I grew up in a very remote part of New Mexico. There was no one to talk to and I think I overcompensate for it as an adult. I have low self-esteem so I thought she wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t that into me. She stuck around for awhile and the girl from Maui still wasn’t very forthcoming with any personal details. I thought she was mysterious because she kept all her secrets. I eventually got to know her, and I realized she didn’t share very many details because Maui is a small island. If you tell anyone something, you might as well tell everyone. It is called coconut wireless, Hawaii’s version of the grapevine. I didn’t know that until later after my first visit. I’m still not convinced she likes me, but we are married and we have a kid, so she’s stuck with me.
After we moved in together
After we moved in together; in an attempt to get to know her better, I came up with an idea for a comic book: A story about an astronaut with a jetpack from the future that is part of the space program for The Kingdom of Hawaii. The Astronaut is tasked with disabling WMD’s on Satellites around Earth during a ceasefire as a metaphor for the cleanup of UXO (unexploded ordinances) happening on Kaho’olawe from the US Navy. I said we should call it Kukui Project ‘cause it is nuts to disarm a bomb in space. Her friends and her are always seeing UFO’s in Hawaii too, so I thought the whole thing could end with an Alien Invasion, but she vetoed that idea. That’s cool too, because I don’t want to draw an alien armada. I read as much about Hawaiian History and Mythology as I could, and did about 4 years of research before I drew the first issue of the Kukui Project. (If people like the Kukui Project, they should absolutely read more about Hawaiian history. It is fascinating.) I asked her if she wanted to work on it with me and she said she would, but we need to keep to a schedule so we can finish it on time. That was 11 years ago.
Mulberry Groove Studio at Pauwela Cannery.
I moved to Hawaii in 2012 when my Fiancée wanted to move back home. We came back to Hawaii for a convention called KawaiiKon in Honolulu(Kawaii is the Japanese word for cute, not to be confused with the name of the island of Kauai). It was the Hawaiian debut for Kukui Project. I had just finished issue #2. I was ecstatic about getting to see more of Hawaii that I had only read about. Oahu is a different animal than Maui. I wasn’t prepared, but I loved it. I got to see where my fiancee’s old house was on the north shore, her old school and church. It was awesome. The convention was incredible. It was the first time I didn’t share a space with another artist, so I was a bit intimidated. Also KawaiiKon is an anime and manga convention, not a typical comic book convention with American Superheroes. The convention was awesome, and I got to meet some lifelong friends at that first Hawaiian convention.
After our time on Oahu ended, we flew to Maui to get settled into our new life. We had sold all our stuff and we were only traveling with a couple of suitcases. We stayed with friends on Maui for our first two weeks. My fiancée was a remote employee for her company. And I took that time to draw the next issue of Kukui Project, (which was only going to be four issues at this point.) When we got to Maui, we stayed in Lahaina. Front street in Lahaina is where most of the art galleries are on Maui. It reminded me of walking around the Santa Fe square in the springtime, except Front street has the Pacific Ocean on one side. Working on my comic book full time and being around all the galleries made me want to acquire studio space. But we needed a place to live first.
We found a beautiful cottage in Haiku
We found a beautiful cottage in Haiku and moved in on April 1st. When I drove up West Kuiaha in Haiku for the first time, it looked like a botanical garden. We passed a huge building about a mile up from Hana Highway. One of the buildings had banners out in front for a surfboard company called Kazuma. Kazuma Surfboards was the only surfboard I was familiar with because my fiancée had a 6’1 Kazuma Milkman that she brought with her to New Mexico when she moved away from Maui. The board was too dear to her, to part with it, even though she couldn’t use it unless she went to California.
After we “moved” in, I needed to find a job and there was a coffee shop that had opened up the previous year down the street at the Pauwela Cannery and Kazuma surfboards. Hawaii is too expensive to have only one or two jobs, you usually have to have more. I was also getting married, and I needed the extra money. I got a job at the coffee shop and then I got married. I got to know everyone that worked out of the Cannery.
When I worked at the coffee shop, I didn’t particularly like it, because I had worked at coffee shops on the mainland. I didn’t like being a barista, and I didn’t move almost 4,000 miles to be a barista. I could go back to New Mexico and be a Barista. I needed to finish the Kukui Project. I would walk home from the coffee shop and pass Kazuma surfboards and think to myself, “wouldn’t it be crazy to work for the company that made my wife’s favorite board?” All the guys that worked at the surfboard Factories were happy. I met Keith Teboul, Jeff Timpone, Sean Ordonez, and Matt Kinoshita. All those guys were super happy. I asked Shawn how he was doing one day, and he said, “I get to wake up and make Surfboards everyday. It would be like if you woke up and went to work and got to make comics everyday at a studio.” (He knew I drew comics by that time.) I thought that might be too much to ask but I thought I could be happy working at a surfboard company. I applied to work at Kazuma Surfboards because the owner mentioned he had an opening in the showroom. I worked at Kazuma surfboards at the Pauwela cannery for 7 and ½ years while I drew comics and attended comic book conventions.
The Surfboard company was amazing. But If you don’t work on your dream someone will hire you to work on their dream. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to make someone else’s dream come true, so I finally quit. Now, I am working on my comic book full time. And I have a studio in a space at Pauwela Cannery where I can go, after I wake up, everyday.