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.

Ron Lemen has worked in several different arenas of art, from representational and fine art to illustration and entertainment art. Not only does he work as a freelance artist and commissioned painter, he has a strong and extensive background in art instruction as well. Ron has developed a solid place in the community of Encinitas participating in a variety of local art events, as well as establishing a worldwide presence on the web with online instruction and tutorials.

Ron first went in to the Action Sports Industry working as a layout artist, logo designer, and board graphic illustrator. Moving in to more involved illustrations and conceptual design, he went back to school and is a graduate of the Atelier System, classically trained, and a former pupil of Sebastian Capella, Spanish portrait virtuoso. He has been a concept designer and art director in the video game industry for 10 years with dozens of clients including Sony, Activision, Ubi Soft, Mattel and more. Now freelancing full-time, his clients include Upper Deck, Dragon lance, White Wolf, Time Warner, Wizards of the Coast, Image Comics, Birdhouse Projects, Ride Snowboards, Disney, and more. In addition to illustrating and Portrait Painting, Ron has been an art instructor for the last 16 years. Together with his wife Vanessa, the two have recently opened a school in Encinitas Ca., Studio 2nd Street, where they instruct classical foundation, fine art painting, illustration and conceptual design.

Vanessa Lemen is a fine art painter and illustrator, who has worked as a freelance artist, commissioned painter, and fine art instructor. Vanessa graduated from San Diego State University in 1995, and has since developed a solid place in the community of Encinitas participating in a variety of local art events, as well as establishing a worldwide presence on the web with online instruction and tutorials. She is co-founder of Studio 2nd Street in Encinitas, CA, with her husband Ron, where she teaches classical foundation drawing and painting, as well as mixed media and illustration classes.

Venessa and Ron Lemen were Visiting Artists in the Dept. of Communication Arts in 2013.

Jeremy Collins came to speak in an open lecture to discuss his experiences combining an interest in mountain climbing with his art and professional life.

“I make art. I always have and know no other way. Sometimes with pen and paper. Sometimes with film and story. Sometimes while climbing rocks. And then I share it. Otherwise what’s the point? I live in a green barn-shaped house with my wife Tricia, and our amazing kids, Zion and Sela.”

National Geographic Magazine, Nat Geo TV, Wall Street Journal, TedEd, Outside, Patagonia, The North Face, prAna, Outdoor Research, Evolv, Rock & Ice, Trail Runner, Alpinist, Mammut, Mountaineers Books, Sharp End Books, Houghton Mifflin, Sender Films, Educational Communications Board, The Kansas City Zoo, MMGY worldwide, Bernstein Rein and others.

Jeremy Collins was a Visiting Artist in the Dept. of Communication Arts in 2013.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: COAR 300 and 320. This course focuses on assignments for science fiction/fantasy subject matter and its various commercial applications.

Taught by Kerry Talbott.

Luke Hart—Princess Mononoke—Pen & ink, digitally colored

Al Lukehart—Princess Mononoke—Pen & ink, digitally colored


Erin Hartlein—Maleficent—Digital painting

Erin Hartlein—Maleficent—Digital painting

Communication Arts was well represented in VCUarts Studio Publication’s Spring 2013 edition.

Faculty, Sterling Hundley’s work was featured on the cover.

The Tasmeem conference was featured in it. Faculty, Jorge Benitez, gave a lecture, exhibited and performed at this conference.

The US & China Typographic Poster Exchange was a feature. This exhibition is co-curated by our Communications Director, Bizhan Khodabandeh and Xu Li, an instructor at Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication.

Faculty, Stephen Alcorn, had images and an article featured for his portrait series of musicians titled, Modern Music Masters.



After their inspirational performance at TEDxRVA, Graduating Communication Arts senior Rob Gibson and violinist Eric Stanley have been selected to perform at the 2013 VCUarts Commencement ceremony Friday May 10th at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Web Page Design
GDES 308-001
MTWRF // May 20th – June 7th
Kim Spencer

A course developing the design of Web sites. Emphasis is placed on HTML and CSS development, the visual design, navigation and communication of Web sites.

The goal of this class to cover basic web design techniques and processes. It is imperative that the designer understand the intricacies of web site architecture, usability and strategies in order to design effectively. The class will be supplemented with lectures, presentations, demonstrations, group critiques and in-class exercises.


GDES 491-001
MTWRF // May 20th – June 7th
Daniel Cole

A studio course that examines the processes and methods of silk-screen production. This course will approach the fundamentals of silk-screening with an emphasis on its unexpected outcomes. The exploration of alternatives to traditional and digital printing are encouraged through a hands-on approach. CRN: 34743


GDES 491-002
MTWRF // May 20th – June 7th
Ernest Bernhardi

Schwitters, Hoch, Heartfield, Zwart—Typographic Collage is an opportunity to channel the light of summer, scent of ephemera and the substance of found content, into beautiful and communicative compositions. This three-week course stresses the importance of typographic design as an activity in which participants learn inspiration is not something to be sought but rather, that which naturally emerges through working with physical materials. CRN: 34742


GDES 491-003
MTWRF // May 20th – June 7th
Allison Schumacher

During this 3 week Summer session students will develop a strong working knowledge of the tools and materials used in contemporary bookmaking. Students will also learn to integrate structure with concept and content in the development of their own one-of-a-kind artists’ books. Various forms of bookbinding, paper engineering, and image-making techniques will be demonstrated as students produce 4 different book bindings, 1 hand-made box, and develop 1 larger conceptual book project. CRN: 33088


GDES 491-004
MTWRF // June 10th – July 10th
Diane Roman

This course focuses on learning printing techniques used in letterpress, understanding how the fundamental concepts in typography have their origins in metal type, and the creation of an edition. Student will have the opportunity to experiment with alternative objects to print with, develop their own color palettes, investigate brayering techniques, and create a limited edition for possible exchange with the class.

Students will learn letterpress printing through a series of demonstrations and studio projects. There is no pre-requisite for this course; a familiarity with basic type terminology is beneficial, but not necessary. Come with enthusiasm! Beginners and experienced printers welcome.


GDES 491-005
TR // May 21st – July 11th
John O’Neill

Students will learn the standards of HTML5 and CSS3 to design responsive web sites for a variety of devices, which include desktops, mobile phones and tablets. The course will also focus on the usability and navigation principles for the most effective critical thinking when designing web sites. CRN: 34767


GDES 491-006
MW // June 10th – July 31st
John O’Neill

Students will learn how to use the interactive features of Adobe InDesign to design and develop interactive publishing solutions for tablet devices.  The course will also focus on typography and navigation principles for the most effective critical thinking when designing interactive solutions. CRN: 34766


GDES 491-007
MTWRF // June 10th – July 10th
Ernest Bernhardi

An experimental workshop exploring ways to integrate the camera and photographic image-making into the design process, for the purpose of creating engaging and unique objects of graphic design.


opportunities 2

Printing with a letterpress is a very rewarding print-making experience. Using vintage lead and wood type, students will produce limited edition works under the guidance of an instructor. This is a great opportunity that is rarely available in the University setting.

No pre-requisites
GDES 491 004
Summer 2013
June 10th-July 10th
Mon-Fri 10:30AM-12:20PM
3 Credits



Thursday, April 18, 2013
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Grace Street Theatre

Charles Vess, recipient of Eisner and World Fantasy Awards and many other accolades, also a VCU alumnus (B.F.A. 1974), will discuss his newest book project, “The Cats of Tanglewood Forest,” and his career of visual magic making. Following the event will be a book sale and signing. Doors open at 6 p.m. Seating is limited, and registration is required. Any unclaimed seats at curtain time will be released on a first-come basis. Registration will open soon. Parking is available for a fee in the West Broad Street and West Main Street parking decks. If special accommodations are needed, or to register offline, please call (804) 828-0593 prior to April 15.



A great opportunity to meet some game developers and learn something yourself.

Come join us professional, independent, students and amateur game developers and make video games at another Ludum Dare 48-hour game development challenge! Can you make a game in under 48 hours? You’d be surprised! Join us at 8 p.m. to setup and wait for the secret theme to be revealed.

This event is made possible by 804RVA, Blanchard’s Coffee, Play’N’Trade Carytown, Copy Cat Printing, and local game jammers!

Learn more about RVA Game Jams at



is now open for registration. Accepting degree and non-degree seeking students.
Focus on Ideation, Dynamic Research, and Authorship.
Course Reference Number: ARTS 491: Hearth, 3 credits.

Hearth, The Embedded Visualist, is designed as a first person experiential course that will yield and build upon the building blocks of student owned intellectual property and authorship. As technology continues to evolve and empowers those that can author and manifest concept into reality, our students must learn to rely upon their own ingenuity and conventions to solve an ever-expanding set of complex problems. Hearth will empower students to build upon personal experiences to become the authors of their own content.

Utilizing the sketchbook as journal, Hearth students will document dynamic shared group experiences that may include white-water rafting, canoeing, hiking, climbing, biking, and service engaged learning projects. Students will be exposed to the work of Internationally recognized illustrators, artists, and athletes through lectures. Students will be introduced to new ideas in ideation and research and through intensive Blue Sky sessions, will begin forging their shared experiences into their own authored content, directed at the format of their own choosing.

The Hearth course will run Monday and Wednesday (9-12)- Tuesday and Thursday (9- 2pm) from May 13th- May 30th.There is a one time equipment fee due at the beginning of the course of $100.00

Email inquiries:

Guest artists: Ron Lemen and Vanessa Lemen and other, TBA