Nate Olson '04: Graphic Novel Illustrator/Art Teacher
by Grace Talusan

"I always drew as a kid and I didn't stop," says Nate Olson, art teacher, Pingree alum, and illustrator. "Most people stop." That was the best advice about making art that Nate ever heard: Don't stop.

When Nate was a student at Pingree, he studied with recently retired teacher Rich Erickson. "Mr. E said he didn't teach me anything, but he was wrong," he says. Nate admits that he learned some techniques from the internet such as how to ink and color comics and how to use related software, but says that "Mr. E also taught me technique and was the inspiration for me to be self-motivated and get out on my own."

Nate earned a BFA in illustration from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and then returned to Pingree, where his father has taught math for the past 20 years, to teach art. While he says that the first few days as an art teacher were very strange, he knows what an influential art class can be and he feels very lucky because the kids are great.

Nate's latest illustration project, which was featured in Pingree's Bertolon Gallery this fall, is a graphic novel about Jesse James, the outlaw from Missouri. Illustrating a comic is a time consuming process that involves multiple stages on the page and on the computer as the panels go from idea, to sketches, and finally, to finished pages.

He's happy to be working on the story of Jesse James, which is rooted in history. For research purposes, Nate traveled to Missouri for the re-enactment of the defeat of Jesse James during the annual September festival organized by the Defeat of Jesse James Days Committee, and somehow ended up playing Bob Younger, one of the gang members, in the re-enactment.

"For the first time in my life, I fired a gun," Nate reports. He knew the story well enough to be mortally wounded, fall over, and die in the tall grass on cue.

"I got feedback that I could have been a little more dramatic in death," Nate says.

Nate continues to research, travel, and teach art as he churns out pages for the project. He won't stop until he's done.