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.






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.

















For those interested in learning more about our program, we now have an information booklet available with topics such as: course descriptions, faculty work, degree requirements, student work etc. You can pick a copy up at our office or download this low-res PDF here.

Back and Front Cover

Photo of inside.

openbook 2013
Student work and course descriptions.

openbook 20132
Info graphic next to some student work.

We would like to welcome our two new full-time faculty members, TyRuben Ellingson and Sarah Faris.


ABOUT TyRuben Ellingson
The son of a Minnesota art professor, TyRuben spent his childhood in his father’s studio, engaged in drawing, painting and constructing cardboard “machines”. While completing his Master’s degree at St. Cloud State University, Ellingson taught drawing and design courses at the university and exhibited his paintings in regional and national shows, receiving recognition and awards. His Master of Fine Arts degree was completed in 1987 at Southern Methodist University.

Combining his fine art successes with a life long interest in film, Ellingson landed a position at George Lucas’ Industrial, Light and Magic in 1989 as a Visual Effects Art Director. While at ILM, Ellingson contributed to the creation of ground-breaking special effects in films such as Jurassic Park, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Disclosure.

In 1995, Ellingson accepted an invitation by Director Guillermo Del Toro to act as principal designer of the signature creature for Mimic. He also designed for Del Toro on Blade 2 and the Hellboy films.

In 2006, Ellingson joined the team at Lightstorm to work as lead vehicle designer for Director James Cameron’s science-fiction epic, Avatar.

Other films to which he has lent his creative talents include Blade Trinity, Signs, Eagle Eye, Surrogates, Priest (2011) and Battle: Los Angeles (2011)


ABOUT Sarah Faris
Sarah Faris earned her masters degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is a Certified Medical Illustrator with HIPAA training who has received numerous awards and recognition for her work from institutions such as: the Association of Medical Illustrators, Vesalius Trust, and Virginia Press Association.

Some of her clients have include: Eastern Virginia Medical Center, John Hopkins Hospital, Thieme Medical Publishers, Amicus Visual Solutions, Electronic Publishing Service Incorporated, Richmond Times Dispatch, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Seif and Associates Incorporated and Patient Education Programs.

Teaching Philosophy

“The brilliance of mankind rests in society as a collective—a vast expanse of interconnected knowledge. Coupling collective knowledge with technological advances in information sharing contemporarily affords us the luxury of ever-expanding intellectual horizons. With new knowledge comes new questions, so the result of persistent learning leads to an ever-deeper realization of the cavernous degree to which our individual ignorance manifests in a seemingly inverse reaction. Referencing the collective through carefully tuned filters and selective absorption based on informed standards can be the only way of satiating the addictive nature of learning. It is my goal to encourage students to revel in discovery, to be amazed at what we know, and to “hungrily operate on the margins of what is a potentially great harvest,” as the late Christopher Hitchens once said.