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Comic Book art

5 Week Online Course | Wednesdays, September 24 – October 22, 2014 | Instructor: Robert Atkins

Comic Book Art Icon

Advanced Comic Book Art: Professional Penciling Techniques

In this advanced course, you’ll cover professional penciling skills such as establishing backgrounds and perspective, creating depth, when and how to use visual reference, and how to create a mood or portray emotion in your characters through the art. A comic cannot just be told with words, the art has a responsibility to convey setting and mood just as much as any dialogue balloon or caption box. Creating that art, and making it look finished for a publisher, is a learned skill that this course provides!

You’ll receive in-depth instruction on how to refine your penciling work and learn what is expected for “finished” pencils at a professional level. This advanced course examines these methods and provides experienced instruction on how to achieve that professional look.

While the focus of the course is comic art, the most valuable aspect of the course is having a full-time professional comic artist as your instructor. Each week class members receive personal critiques and feedback on their work.

There is also open discussion and opportunities to ask questions about the comic industry beyond just creating the art. Topics like: how to break in, methods for setting up at conventions or the proper way to show a portfolio to editors and established artists, how to work with editors and what’s expected of the artists are all frequent conversations throughout the course.

You will be able to discuss any questions you have on process, freelance work, working with writers, and receive personalized real-time answers from an established comic professional!

Prerequisite: You must have completed the Introduction to Comic Book Art course to enroll in the Advanced class.

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  • Details
  • Instructor
  • FAQs
  • Requirements
  • Testimonials
  • Meets one night a week between 9:30 and 11:30 pm EST, for five weeks.
  • You will work with professional comic book artist Robert Atkins.
  • You will pencil a finished 3-page story and finished penciled cover.
  • You will keep a sketch thread throughout the course to practice the skills discussed in class and provide a place for further instruction and critiques.
  • Course covers penciling techniques to help you create a finished comic page ready to ink or color and show to editors for review.
  • You’ll have frequent opportunities for Q and A with the instructor about industry topics beyond creating the artwork. Like how to contact editors and how to set up at conventions.
  • You’ll also learn about networking and presenting portfolios and how to get the most out of a critique.
  • You also get exclusive access to a dedicated class member-only online forum.
  • You’ll have access to recordings of any class in the series for the duration of the class and a few weeks after its conclusion—so you never have to miss a class!
  • Simply click on the PayPal button and you’re enrolled.
Robert Atkins

Robert Atkins has established himself in the comic book industry, known for his penciling work on military action in books such as G.I. JoeSnake Eyes, as well as superhero titles such as Amazing Spider-Man, Venom and Heroes for Hire. After earning his M.F.A. in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2005, Robert immediately started working in comics.

Along with Robert’s comic work, he’s built up a portfolio and clientele of commercial art and product lines including package art for Hasbro: NERF, Star Wars: Black Series action figures, Marvel Legends, and many other toy lines! Robert is also working on video game concept illustration and environments for Playful Games. Anyone that has taken any of Robert’s classes can attest to his sheer passion for artwork and teaching!

Like all of Comics Experience’s instructors, Robert is not just a top professional in his field; he’s also an accomplished teacher as well. After graduating and then teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Robert has also developed an official mentorship program for the school that has placed a number of students in the art industries’ workforce. And now Comics Experience is pleased to be able to pass that working knowledge on to you!


Do I need to know a whole lot about comics?

Absolutely not. But this course is based on the methodology taught in the Introduction to Comics Art course, so you must have taken that course to take this one. The class has a quick pace, so if you’re very new, be prepared to work, but one thing we pride ourselves on at Comics Experience is our ability to teach to an individual’s skill level.

Do I need to be a computer wiz for the class?

Nope. Not one bit. You need to have high-speed Internet access and headphones/ear buds to listen in. A microphone is helpful, but that’s by no means necessary. Ultimately, you don’t have to speak if you don’t want to, though we like hearing your voice! Once you’re in your first class, we’re sure you’ll get comfortable very quickly.

What computer programs do I need for this course?

None are an absolute necessity, however a scanner and editing program like Adobe Photoshop (Elements or full program) are very useful in posting your homework to the course message board so your instructor can critique them. We have had students simply take photos of their work and post that way as well.

When does the class meet and for how long?

The Advanced Comic Art class meets once a week for 5 weeks. It meets between 9:00 pm EST and 11:00 pm EST. The course is held live.

What if I miss a class?

Don’t worry if you miss a class. All of our classes are recorded and available to view via streaming link for the duration of the course. And on top of that, you’ll have exclusive access to the Comics Experience message board set up just for the class. You’ll be able to interact with the rest of your class all week long at any time!

If I don’t live in the United States, can I still take the course?

You bet. We’ve had students jump in from Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and Africa. Not Antarctica yet, but give us time! Many of these students have not been able to attend live, and they’ve all been happy to view the recordings and interact with their classmates online!

Learning about comic storytelling is great, but do we get any practical industry advice?

You’ll get a LOT of practical industry advice. Networking is one of our main topics in all of our courses. It’s, simply put, essential for anyone who wants a career in comics. We discuss relationship building and ways to get your foot in the door and where to go to meet the right people and so on.

If I don’t want a career in comics, and just like making comics or even just want to learn more about the art form I love, is this class right for me?

Sure it is! How better to expand your knowledge and understanding of comics than by engaging with creators? And that’s what most of our clients and students are—they’re creators. It’s a great place to learn just for fun if you wish too. We’d love to have you!

What do I do after the class?

Once the course is over, you’ll have a greater foundation of understanding on how to tell stories visually. It is then up to you to find comic scripts or write stories to continue to push yourself artistically and improve your craft. Comics are a unique artistic medium that can push how stories are told with still images. The art can be as simple as a single image, a traditional grid format, or even as complex as free form layouts that accentuate the action of every panel.

The boundaries of visual storytelling are only expanded when artists push themselves and their art to experiment with the medium. A way to continue working on your storytelling methods and receive instruction and feedback is through the Creator’s Workshop.

I don’t really want to BE a comic book artist, but I like comic book art. Is this the class for me?

You are under no real pressure to complete the active homework assignments. We encourage that you do because it enhances your own learning. But if you just want to get into the mindset or gain a better understanding of how to look at and evaluate the art you see in your hobby, then jump on in and we think you’ll be astounded by all the thought, preparation, and skill that goes into make a rock solid comic book page.

How do I sign up?

Click on the PayPal button for this course and you’ll get an email confirmation and instructions within two business days giving you everything you need to get started with the course.

Prerequisite: You must have completed the Introduction to Comic Art course to enroll in the Advanced class.

To participate in our live online sessions you will need:

  • A computer or mobile device that meets Go To Meeting’s minimum requirements
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Headphones/ear buds with microphone (optional, but strongly suggested)
  • A mind like a sponge!

Carl Peterson

“Breaking into the comic book industry is tough. You have to be better than the next guys (and there are a lot of them) and you have to know the right people inside the industry. As part of my attempts to break in, I’ve taken several classes that helped build my art skills. But in addition to expert art instruction, the Comics Experience pencilling class gave me insight on how to get my art in front of the right eyes.

Over six weeks, professional penciller Robert Atkins taught my fellow students and me how to pencil a clear, entertaining story on a deadline. He covered all the essential processes, from interpreting a script to thumb-nailing to finishing a page. And Robert was great at tailoring the class to the interests and abilities of his students. He regularly critiqued each student’s art, offering suggestions on how to improve his/her personal storytelling and technique.

And even though the bulk of the class was focused on art (rightly so), the most useful part for me was the discussion on how to network. Meeting editors, presenting original concepts to publishers and making the most of conventions were a few of the topics Robert discussed during the class. Even after learning all this, it’s clear that getting a pencilling gig requires skill, persistence and lots of thick skin, but thanks to this class, at least I can see the path.

I would encourage anyone who is serious about pencilling comics professionally to take the Comics Experience pencilling class. Between the art instruction and the industry insight, I know you’ll learn something useful.”