Hanging Up My Teaching Hat

Tonight is my final comics class at VanArts (the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts). For the past 12 years I’ve taught a part-time course called Introduction to Comic Book Production. I showed students the tools & tricks of the trade, helped them learn about all the things a comic artist should think about when crafting a page and encouraged them to strive for clear storytelling so the reader has a smooth and enjoyable experience.

It was good. I feel confident that I was able to give students their money’s worth and, in most cases, make them stronger storytellers. It was also a nice outlet for me to share the things that get me excited about the comics medium. But it’s been difficult juggling the course with full-time employment in animation, especially as my responsibilities there increase. So I’ve decided to bring this chapter to a close. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to as a teacher and now it’s time to focus on new opportunities.

Thanks to VanArts for providing me the venue and support to share my comic book knowledge over the past 12 years. And thanks to the 151 students who passed through my course and let me ramble at them about the comic creation process. I hope you got something out of my post-it note critiques.

Just remember: You should always plan out your lettering in your thumbnails!

A sampling of those post-it note critiques.

Comic Lecture at Vancouver Public Library

I’m going to be giving my talk on creating comics at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library on the evening of Thursday, January 14th. I’ll be discussing the basics of drawing comics and explaining the typical stages of script, thumbnails, pencils, inks and lettering, using examples from the graphic novel Emiko Superstar. The event is free to attend.

See more event details here. 

This is a good talk for those who are new to making comics and want to get a glimpse at how another artist does it. This will also give you a good idea of the types of things I teach in my comics course at VanArts. My next course there starts up on January 25th UPDATE: We’ve pushed the next start date to February 15th.

Learn Clear Storytelling

My former student Michael Weber has posted his third and final blog entry about his experience taking my part-time comic book course at VanArts. He’s titled this one:

Learn Clear Storytelling from Steve Rolston

That’s definitely something I emphasize in my class: making sure it’s clear to the reader what is going on and where they’re supposed to be looking. In this post, Michael shows how I coached him through a particularly tricky sequence in his Dawn Line comic. He had some cool ideas on how to lay out the panels but it took some tweaking before we got a version where we knew it would be read in the correct order.

Weird Sequence

My notes on his work also highlight just how much thought goes into drawing a comic page; whether it’s composition, timing, continuity, physics, legibility, sound effects or the many other things a comic creator has to consider. If I see my students doing something that could confuse or annoy their reader, I will call them out on it so they know to avoid those problems in the future.

It’s nice to know that Michael appreciated my critical eye and the advice I had to offer. If you’re interested in having a similar experience and you live in Vancouver, check out my Intro to Comic Book Production course. The next course is scheduled to start very soon, on Monday, March 30th.

Why You Should Take My Comic Making Class

One of my recent comic students, Michael Weber, has started posting a series of blog posts under the heading “How to Make Comics the Steve Rolston Way”, discussing his experience taking my classes. If you’ve ever been curious about the part-time course I teach at VanArts, these should be an insightful read for you.

thedrawnline.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/why-you-should-take-steve-rolstons-comic-making-class

As a teacher, I’m finding it very interesting to see someone really think about the course they took and express what they got out of it. Michael was a very enthusiastic student and I expect to see a lot of comics from him in the future. Keep an eye out for his current project, The Dawn Line.

If you live in Vancouver and want to learn some tricks about drawing comics, my next course starts up on March 16th. You can get more information and register online at the VanArts website.

Comic Demo + VanArts Course

Hey Vancouverites, I’m doing another FREE demo at Opus Art Supplies in North Vancouver (near Capilano Mall) on Sunday, September 7th from 11am to 1pm. I’ll be discussing the process of creating comics and I’ll explain the typical stages of Script, Thumbnails, Pencils, Inks and Lettering, using examples from Emiko Superstar and some of my other comics.

www.opusartsupplies.com/how/demos/lessons-comic-guru
(they made up that title, not me)

Space is limited and registration is required. Please register in advance by calling the North Van store at 604-904-0447.
www.opusartsupplies.com/locations/north-vancouver

If you’re looking for a more in-depth learning experience, my next Introduction to Comic Book Production course at VanArts starts up on September 15th 22nd. It’s a 12-week course that runs on Monday nights from 7-10pm. I take my students through the process of writing, thumbnailing, penciling, inking and lettering a four-page comic. There’s a strong emphasis on clear storytelling, in addition to teaching all the other things I’ve learned during my fourteen years as a comic book artist.
Feel free to email me any questions you may have about the course. Or head over to the VanArts website to register now: www.vanarts.com/courses/introduction-comic-book-production

Study Comics at VanArts

My next Introduction to Comic Book Production course at VanArts will be starting up on March 17th, so now’s the time to sign up! It’s a 12-week course that runs on Monday nights (or Tuesday if there’s a holiday) in Downtown Vancouver, Canada. I take my students through the process of writing, thumbnailing, penciling, inking and lettering a four-page comic. There’s a strong emphasis on clear storytelling, in addition to teaching all the other things I’ve learned during my fourteen years as a comic book artist.

Feel free to email me any questions you may have about the course. Or head over to the VanArts website to register now: www.vanarts.com/courses/introduction-comic-book-production

VanArts Comic Flyer

Learning Comics in Vancouver

UPDATE: We’ve pushed back my comic course’s next start date until Sept. 9th!

Earlier this week I wrapped up another comic course at VanArts. As usual, not everyone completely finished their four pages but I think they all walked away with a smile on their face and some knowledge in their noggin. I gotta say, it does feel good that many of my students express real gratitude for the things they’ve learned in my class. Most often it’s a variation of “I didn’t realize just how much thinking and hard work goes into making comics.” It’s true. Comics can be fun but it’s not always easy. My main goal with the course has always been to shed light on the process and possible storytelling hurdles so that the students don’t have to learn everything through their own slow trial-and-error.

If you want to be part of the next group, the time to sign up is now! My next Introduction to Comic Book Production course is scheduled to start up on Sept 3rd at the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts). It’s a 12-week course that runs on Monday nights (or Tuesday if there’s a holiday). I take my students through the process of writing, thumbnailing, penciling, inking and lettering a four-page comic. There’s a strong emphasis on clear storytelling, in addition to teaching all the other things I’ve learned during my thirteen years as a comic book artist.

Feel free to email me any questions you may have about the course. Or head over to the VanArts website to register now: www.vanarts.com/courses/introduction-comic-book-production

VanArts Comic Flyer

If you’ve already started working on a comic and would like some feedback, the Cloudscape Comic Society will be holding a Comic Clinic this Sunday, Aug 25th. They’re calling it a space to work with other artists to improve your stories-in-progress. I’m planning to drop in myself to see what everyone is up to.

Another event you should check out if you’re a comic artist in Vancouver is the Process Colour exhibit that’s up right now at the Hot Art Wet City gallery. It’s “an exhibition of local independent comic creators and their [artistic/production] processes, demonstrating a variety of approaches to taking a story from initial concept to finished artwork. Features Tony Cliff, Rebecca Dart, Simon Roy, and Brandon Graham.” These are all brilliant creators and it’s a great opportunity to see how different artists attack the comic page. The show runs until Aug 30th.

VanCAF, VanArts, Vancouver Comicon

We’re a week away from my next public appearance: the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. This FREE event will be taking place at the Roundhouse Community Centre on May 25th and 26th. This is the show’s second year and it’s shaping up to be a solid gathering of indie comic creators. I’ll be there as a special guest and, in addition to having a table, I’ll be doing a talk at 3pm on the Saturday. I’ll be discussing the basic stages of creating a comic book page. You should come check it out if you’re new to the creative side of the medium and curious about how it all comes together.

And if you want to get directly involved in the event, VanCAF is looking for more volunteers to make sure everything runs smoothly. Check out their website for more info: www.vancaf.com


Happening even sooner is the next Vancouver Comic Con at Heritage Hall. That’s this Sunday, May 19th and the headline creators are Corey “Reyyy” Lewis, Michael Walsh and Ed Brisson. I won’t be attending as a guest but I wanted to point it out since it’s been a few years since my ol’ pal Corey made it up to Vancouver and I’m sure there are some Sharknife fans out there wanting to see that dude in person. www.vancouvercomiccon.com


Meanwhile, over at VanArts, we’ve pushed back the start date of my next comic class until June 3rd. This gives all you aspiring comic artists a couple more weeks to sign up for my 12-week course, Introduction to Comic Book Production. It’s looking to be a small class, which means you’ll get plenty of one-on-one time for me to critique your visual storytelling and help improve your art.

Need an endorsement? One of my former students, Anat Rabkin, recently tweeted: “If you’re in the Vancouver area, I cannot recommend @steverolston’s comic course enough. Worth every penny. He’s an awesome teacher.”

Go on, invest in your comic-drawing education! www.vanarts.com/courses/introduction-comic-book-production

Summer is for Learning Comics

My next Introduction to Comic Book Production course at VanArts is scheduled to start up on May 13th (UPDATE — We’ve pushed the start date back to June 3rd!). If you’re in Vancouver and interested in learning the ins and outs of drawing comics, now is the time to sign up!

This is a 12-week course that runs on Monday nights. I take my students through the process of writing, thumbnailing, penciling, inking and lettering a four-page comic. There’s a strong emphasis on clear storytelling, in addition to teaching all the other things I’ve learned during my thirteen years as a comic book artist.

Feel free to email me any questions you may have about the course. Or head over to the VanArts website to register now: www.vanarts.com/courses/introduction-comic-book-production

FYI, I normally start my courses in January, May and September but, due to some tentative travel plans, the fall course probably won’t be happening this year.


Still in high school? I’ve got another comics course to recommend:
Teens Only – Graphic Novels is a week-long intensive course being taught in July by Jonathon Dalton. It’s a UBC pre-university course intended for high school students aged 15-18.

My night class isn’t really geared toward that age bracket, so this looks like a good alternative for teens who want to learn about making comics.