So, you are going to test out of Basic Communication Arts Software, here’s everything you need to know!


This is not a class.

It is a way to test out of having to take the Basic Communication Arts Software course. Think of it as a placement test, like the one you did for math once upon a time.

There are two parts to this test out.

First you’ll complete a set of three assignments in Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, respectively. Second, there is an exam that you’ll take after the review team looks over your visual assignments. More on parts I and II later on.

Do you need to test out before the end of the Fall 2015 semester?

Then email Grace Manno at and she’ll work with you on a case by case basis. OR –

Do you need to test out by the end of the Spring 2016 semester?

Then you should attend one of the two interest meetings coming up on Friday, November 13th, 2015 at both 10:00 am 1:00 pm in room 302. We’ll cover what exactly is required and the strategy for tackling these assignments and test. The assignments will not be due until after the winter break. Be sure to make it out to this interest meeting

Want to know what the software projects are like, or get started on them?

A new folder of assignment materials and instructions will be uploaded soon.

Other Information

If your projects are satisfactory then you will be notified within five business days that you are cleared to take the written exam.

The written portion of the test costs $90, payable by check to the VCU Cashier in Harris Hall. This is a fee to waive the Software class credits, so you do not pay tuition for the class.

Each part of the test out (three assignments and one test) is worth 25% of the total grade.

Software Tutorials

Below are links to the suggested tutorials to prepare for the written portion of the exam:




Email Grace Manno with any questions!

Here are two links to podcasts featuring faculty, TyRuben Ellingson, where he discusses concept design and special effects.

Taken from Fanboy Confidential:
“[TyRuben Ellingson] has worked on like Jurassic Park, Twister, Men in Black, Avatar, and most recently Pacific Rim.  He’s had a long standing relationship as the go-to concept guy for director Guillermo del Toro so, naturally as we’re celebrating del Toro’s work this month, we pulled TyRuben in for a bit of a talk (over 4 hours!) to learn all about working with Guillermo, as well as for the entertainment industry in general.”


Taken on Blade 2 — Left to right — Wayne Barlowe — TyRuben Ellignson — in front of Profssor Ellingson, Mike Mignola — Tim Bradstreet — Guillermo Del Toro — lastly, 
Leo Duranona story board artist. 

Comm Arts Alumni, Theodore Taylor III, recently won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for his illustration in the book, When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop written by Laban Carrick Hill.

Below is what he had to say about the experience.

I was contacted in 2010 by the publisher to see if I would be interested in illustrating the book. Considering how I’ve always tried to combine my love of music with my artwork it seemed like a great fit. As this is my first book, the creative process was long but very much worth it. I’m happy with the result and I think it’s a good starting point for kids to learn about the history of hip-hop, a music and culture that has become a large part of peoples’ lives around the world. I’m hoping this will open the door to creating more books.





Heads up on a cool new class taught this spring by our chair, Robert Meganck and Professor Ron Keller in the Theatre Dept.


Designing for the Theatre
AN interdisciplinary studio for Communication Arts,
Theatre, Interior & Fashion Design students.
COAR #463 Communication Arts Honors Studio

Admission into this class will be based
on a portfolio review. In addition to a
transcript, interested students should submit 5 to 10 images—RGB and do not exceed 700 pixels on their largest side. If the file is of a large complex image an accompanying file of a detail is permissible.

Students will study set design, costume design, and the design of promotional material under the instruction of Theatre Professor, Ron Keller and Communication Arts Chair, Robert Meganck.

The class will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:00—2:20 PM in the carriage house at 916 1/2 W. Franklin. Students will have exclusive 24/7 access to the building with a swipe card.

Please email all submissions to by Friday, Nov. 15th
with the subject “Designing for the Theatre.”


We are very proud to announce that our Program Coordinator, Deborah Van Buren has won the Dorris Douglas Budd Award “in recognition for the exceptional standards she has practiced in her profession.” Nominations included staff from the entire University – including MCV Campus.


The Day I Had My Surgeryedited
The Day I Had My Surgery is printed and being distributed!

In a collaboration with MCV, the Dept of Communication Arts’ Alum, Corienne Rienert, illustrated this children’s book written by Dr. Richard Hubbard. The book is intended as a tool to help children about to undergo surgery. It is now being distributed to children at MCV Hospital.


“Broad Street exists to present true stories.”

“Broad Street is anon-profit magazine featuring the best that the field of creative non-fiction has to offer. At Broad Street, we hope to create an engaging platform where writing, poetry, and artwork can come together in one space to be enjoyed equally by members of the world of creative non-fiction and those who are new to this exciting form. ”

Many of our faculty and alumni are participating in publication. The Summer 2013 edition has just come out. More info can be found at

Faculty Participants Include
Dept Chair, Robert Meganck
Sterling Hundley
Josh George
Tyler Darden

Alumni Include
Ally Hodges
Shawn Yu



James Sturm is a cartoonist and educator. He is currently the Director of The Center for Cartoon Studies, a two-year cartooning school located in White River Junction, Vermont.

In 1991 James received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, moved to Seattle and co-founded the alternative weekly, The Stranger. That same year Fantagraphics began publishing his Eisner-nominated comic book series The Cereal Killings.

During the next five years James was the art director of The Stranger, collaborated with syndicated columnist (and talking head) Dan Savage producing two issues of the comic book Savage Love. In 1996 James received a Xeric grant for his comic The Revival. From 1997-2001 James lived in Savannah, Georgia and taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the sequential art department.

In 1998 Drawn and Quarterly published the story Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight, the second in a trilogy of American historical fiction pieces. Three years later came the last installment of the trilogy, the best-selling and award-winning graphic novel The Golem’s Mighty Swing. The book has been translated into several languages and was named “Best Comic 2001″ by Time Magazine.

An avid collector of Marvel Comics in his youth James wrote and designed the 2004 Eisner award winning Unstable Molecules, a four issue series and trade paperback featuring the characters based on the Fantastic Four, and published by Marvel Comics.

James’ most recent books include Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow, Adventures in Cartooning (with CCS alumni Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost), and Market Day. With CCS alumni Brandon Elston, James editedDenys Wortman’s New York.

James’ writings and illustrations have appeared in scores of national and regional publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Onion, The New York Times, Slate, and on the cover of The New Yorker.

James Sturm was a visiting artist in the Dept. of Communication Arts in 2013.

Comm Arts Assistant Professor, Stephen Alcorn was interviewed on March 21 by the Italian television station, Granda. The interview coincided with he opening ceremony of the one-man exhibition held last Spring in the historic city of Alba, located at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy. The exhibit revolved around his series of releif-block portraits titled Modern Music Masters (see

Professor Alcorn’s was the recipient of a Dean’s Research Faculty Reassignment Grant. This prestigious grant permitted him to spend a portion of the Spring semester in Italy. While in Italy, Professor Alcorn conducted research at the Università degli Studi di Milano, and further cemented educational ties with the city of Florence, his beloved “home-away-from-home,” and the inspiration behind of the VCU Study Abroad Program, FLORENCE REVEALED.

Those interested in participating in the Summer 2014 edition of this exciting VCU Study Abroad Program are invited to contact Prof. Alcorn via email (, or to visit him in person during office hours (Franklin Terrace, Wednesdays, 1-3PM).

To all prospective students!!!

Our faculty frequently teaches in the VCUarts Summer Intensive, a program offering high school students the opportunity to explore various VCUarts focuses. This is a great opportunity for prospective students to get a glimpse of our department. The courses typically taught by our faculty are: figure drawing, sequential imagery/comics, drawing from observation and 2d drawing/painting.

More about the Summer Intensive Program can be found here.

Photos of the program are below. Faculty and alumni in the images include: Sarah Faris, Albert Epshteyn, Kerry Talbott, Chris Visions and Cathryn Hutton.