TyRuben Ellingson developed a rich career in Hollywood as a concept designer on groundbreaking films such as “Jurassic Park” and “Avatar” before joining VCUarts Department of Communication Arts in 2013. Ellingson earned an M.F.A. from Southern Methodist University and worked as a fine art painter before he began his career in film at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic as a visual effects art director.
From this auspicious start, Ellingson assisted in the creation of visual effects for “Jurassic Park,” a special edition of “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” and continued with a 20-year career in Hollywood – with a focus on designing monsters and machines – during a time of rapid advances in CGI (computer-generated imagery).
In 2006 he became James Cameron’s lead vehicle designer for the sci-fi epic, “Avatar,” which again pushed the technological boundaries of filmmaking. Yet, throughout his career, Ellingson always looked for opportunities to teach, having held adjunct posts at St. Cloud State University and San Francisco State University. Today, in addition to his duties at VCUarts, he continues to work on films as a concept designer, as well as a consultant to the gaming industry.
Ellingson sees Communications Arts as a digital department that embraces and utilizes traditional media. “I come from the future,” he says. “Hollywood is probably seven to 10 years ahead of the nation in how technology is affecting artists.” At VCU, Ellingson teaches several courses including a freshman project course and an honors studio, and often the concept drawing class, taught from the perspective of the entertainment industry. After living in the Midwest, Southwest, South and West Coast, he’s enjoying life now on the East Coast.
Ellingson’s work is featured in the exhibition “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters,” on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through November 27, 2016.
Image: “Grigori’s Mecha-Glove Study No. 1,” preproduction design for “Hellboy” (1), ballpoint pen and marker on copy paper, 11” x 17” (2002)