Robert Brinkerhoff began teaching part-time for VCUarts within a year of graduation. After completing his MFA at VCU in 1990, he taught in graphic design programs at both Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, and The University of Memphis in Tennessee. In 1996, his teaching has focused on illustration concepts classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he is a Professor of Illustration. At RISD, he has served as both the Head of Illustration as well as Chief Critic for RISD’s European Honors Program in Rome, Italy for two years. As an illustrator and designer, Brinkerhoff’s clients have included major institutions of higher learning, including The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University and Brandeis University, as well as several regional and national magazines and publishing companies. His work has been included in numerous competitions and publications, including Print and How, the University and College Designer’s Association and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. His paintings, artists books and video work have been exhibited both nationally and internationally and he has been awarded artist residencies in both the U.S. and Ireland.
“When I was in seventh grade my father told me that I needed to decide on a career. With this daunting challenge providing a bit of traction, I clumsily forged a path for myself. I declared that would become a commercial artist, and I pursued this romantic vocation with cavalier single-mindedness. Apart from a brief fling with acting in high school (I was egotistically star-struck), I stuck with the plan. From the start, and probably because I didn’t have a lot of guidance in exploring options, I planned to go to VCU. It was the only school to which I applied and I suppose I am very lucky that it was such a great place to work and learn. I was also lucky that I enjoyed the work, as I left no room for vocational alternatives. In retrospect, this was a foolhardy way to prepare myself for life. I’m still pretty bad at math and my knowledge of things outside art and design, while humble, has been garnered despite of my carefree high school days.
I found some of the best relationships of my adult life at VCU, establishing lifelong friendships and introducing me to dear colleagues in creative collaboration. Likewise, my love of teaching and learning was inspired by the terrific faculty I had in Communication Design (Graphic Design was previously called Communication Design), people who challenged assumptions, helped me cultivate mature and intelligent design processes, and shared with me their often brilliant teaching methods, many of which I have yet to match. I have kept every notebook from my graduate school experience, as I consider it such a formative period in my development as an artist, illustrator and designer. I vividly recall some of the more profoundly influential discussions I had with Ben Day, John DeMao, Richard Carlyon, Rob Carter, John Malinoski, Meredith Davis and Phil Meggs, among others.
Having taught for 25 years in a variety of settings, I must contend that VCU is an educational gem in terms of its resources, its dedicated and talented faculty, its curriculum and its students. Few institutions can claim its consistent ranking among the top schools of art and design in the country while remaining both affordable and practical in their reach. I am very fortunate that, when I made that reckless yet serendipitous decision in seventh grade, I was charting the course for a lifetime of enjoyable, personally meaningful work, the seeds of which were planted in the studios at VCU.”