Back to top

From basic drawing techniques to the very physiology of perception, all the way through 3D design, ceramics, and oil painting, the Department of Fine Arts gives students a firm theoretical handle on visual principles as well as extensive, firsthand experience in a range of media. Although many courses emphasize professional applications in the animation industry, skills learned here are transferable to artistic disciplines across the board. Students benefit from a faculty steeped in the worlds of illustration, animation, film, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and design.


Department Faculty

Rob Kmiec, MA

Department Chair

Rob Kmiec hails from Boston, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration from Massachusetts College of Art in 1995. After graduating, he worked as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.

He discovered a passion for education after volunteering to teach Adobe Photoshop to middle school students at the Cambridge Community Art Center. From 1997 until 2005, Kmiec taught at Catholic Memorial School in Boston, where he also served as Chair of the Fine Art Department. During this time, he continued to freelance as an illustrator, and in 1999 was a finalist in the Illustrators of the Future competition.

After being presented the Juror’s Choice Award (2000) in an exhibition sponsored by the Falmouth Artist’s Guild, Kmiec turned his attention toward creating a personal body of work, exhibiting and selling pieces regularly at venues across Massachusetts including the Dorchester Historical Society, Cedar Grove Gallery, and Boston City Hall.

Striving to be a lifelong learner, Kmiec furthered his education and earned a Master of Arts in Illustration from Syracuse University in 2003.

In 2005 he joined DigiPen Institute of Technology as an associate professor. Since then, he has instructed students in courses such as ART 125: Tone, Color and Composition; ART 201: Advanced Life Drawing; ART 234: Sequential Art; ART 251: Character Design; and CG 201: Two-Dimensional Raster Graphics and Animation.

On top of his teaching duties, Kmiec stays active in the art community as a freelance illustrator. He has delivered guest lectures on Adobe Photoshop at the University of Washington and worked as Art Director and Lead Artist on a local, independent film, Render Me Dead, for Frenettik Productions. In his spare time Kmiec also co-curates the Gallery at the OK Hotel in Seattle, where he has a studio and continues to build a personal body of art.

Kmiec enjoys teaching DigiPen students because their work ethic is so intense. “It’s exciting and rewarding to see a student progress so rapidly in this program,” he says.

“Because of my longstanding experience in both art education and illustration, I am able to see multiple sides of the art experience,” Kmiec says. “This allows me to render the best possible solutions in the classroom, solutions that are rooted in both pedagogical and professional grounds. Because of my experience in the traditional and digital realms of art, I can bridge both worlds and help the students to do the same.”

Matt Buckner, MFA

Associate Professor

Matt Buckner’s early years were spent in his father’s sculpture studio in Oregon — where he learned woodworking, carving, and casting — as well as a stint in Italy where he worked for a furniture carver. In 1981, Buckner moved to New York, where he worked at a number of foundries and restoration companies as a mold maker, welder, metal finisher, turner, carver, and gilder. His notable projects include the restoration of carvings and patinas at the New York Public Library and the American Stock Exchange.

Before coming to DigiPen in 2012, Buckner taught life studies, sculpture, and design for 25 years. He has conducted workshops in Hong Kong, Peru, and France, and has renovated or constructed the sculpture areas of several teaching facilities, including the University of Oregon and the former Seattle Academy of Fine Art. At the behest of his students, he formed the Seattle Sculpture Atelier in 2008, a studio devoted to traditional methods for making sculptures, including figure studies and anatomy.

In 1995, Buckner became a two-time winner of the Gloria Medal, conferred by the National Sculpture Society for best body of work by a sculptor under the age of 35. His commissions included woodcarvings, bronzes, and works fabricated in a variety of materials. Locally, he has had solo exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum and Olympic College.

Ryan Finnerty, MFA

Assistant Professor

Ryan Finnerty is a Seattle-based artist and educator. He holds a BFA in Painting from Savannah College of Art and Design and an MFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Washington. Finnerty has exhibited paintings and drawings in several galleries in the Seattle area and throughout the country. He has also served as an artist-in-residence with numerous arts organizations both nationally and locally.

As an educator, Finnerty’s coursework ranges from traditional drawing and painting to integrated art history/design courses. He has been working with DigiPen’s MFA program since 2013 and became a full-time faculty member in 2015.

David Longo

Senior Lecturer

David Longo grew up on a dairy farm in Connecticut. At an early age, he had a passion for drawing and painting, coupled with a love of video games. When Donkey Kong hit the arcades in the early 1980s, he became enraptured by 8-bit graphics, leading to many drawings of pixelated characters on graph paper. It would be over a decade before his love of art and games would converge again. He went on to receive a BFA in illustration from Pratt Institute in New York City. Upon graduating, he worked as the studio manager at a graphic design firm in Manhattan while doing freelance illustration on the side.

As a gamer, Longo was acutely aware of the evolution of video games in the 1990s with the ever-increasing visual fidelity and sophistication of gameplay. In 1996, he began his 20-year adventure in game development, creating illustrations and characters for the third installment of Bungie Software’s Marathon series. In 1999, he made the trek out to Seattle to work at Monolith Productions as the lead 3D artist for the critically acclaimed No One Lives Forever. He moved into the art director role for No One Lives Forever 2, F.E.A.R., and Gotham City Impostors. In 2012, he co-founded Blackpowder Games with a small group of ex-Monolith employees, releasing their first game, Betrayer, in 18 months with just six-and-a-half employees. After a short stint at ArenaNet, Longo joined DigiPen full time to help up-and-coming students become tomorrow’s exceptional game artists.

Monte Michaelis

Adjunct Faculty
Senior Lecturer

Monte Michaelis taught his first course at DigiPen Institute of Technology, Introduction to Animation, in 2002. An industry veteran with degrees in graphic design and animation, Michaelis has since taught courses in storyboarding, character design, vector animation, and portfolio design.

Michaelis has worked on two of the biggest casual game franchises in the world: perennial favorite Bejeweled and the ludicrously popular Plants vs Zombies. His career is built on creating work for clients who take fun seriously (Disney, PBS, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and Nintendo, to name a few) and his students have been placed at major labels in the game industry such as PopCap, Valve, Epic Games, and Bungie. Michaelis is creative director at the home of the world’s largest treasure hunt, Geocaching HQ, and the co-founder of Heavy Skeleton, an independent game company based in Seattle, Washington.

Michaelis plays ukulele, writes comics, collects outdated video game and music formats, and he still owns the Star Wars lunchbox he carried in kindergarten. He can be followed online at www.thisismonte.com.

Peter Moehrle

Senior Lecturer

At the age of 9, Peter Moehrle immigrated with his family from West Germany to Toronto, Canada, in 1966. He showed an interest in drawing and painting from an early age. But it wasn’t until high school that he knew he wanted to be an artist. After high school, Moehrle enrolled at the Ontario College of Art, where he studied fine art and graduated with honors.

While he was working at his first job at a picture framing shop, a customer who worked as a voice actor for animated films suggested he pursue a career in film and referred him to a friend. That friend turned out to be one of the three owners of Nelvana, the largest animation studio in Canada at the time.

Since 1980, Moehrle has made his living as a background painter, becoming supervisor of his department after three years of working in animation. In 1986, he became the supervisor of layouts as well. His job allowed him to work on various animation projects for television and film.

In 1995, Moehrle joined Disney Feature Animation in Florida as a senior background artist and worked on feature films like Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and others. Since Disney closed their studios in Florida, he has done development work for studios like Sony, Starz, IDT, Core (Canada), Hibbert Ralph (UK), and Miramax (UK).

Today, Moehrle teaches young future animation artists at DigiPen and maintains his skills by doing freelance work for the occasional studio in his spare time.

Learn More

Steffon Moody

Senior Lecturer

Steffon Moody became a scenic artist for the Muny Opera in St. Louis at the age of 16. He became a Journeyman set painter in Local 350 at the age of 21, and received a BFA in Painting at Washington University in St. Louis at 22. For the next three years he worked at the St. Louis Repertory Theater and SuperScenics in Seattle.

In 1987, Moody co-founded the Seattle-based physical theater company UMO Ensemble and began pursuing a career as a professional performer. He studied European-style clown, mask, mime, buffoon, improvisation, and movement, all based on the pedagogy of L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. While in UMO, he applied his visual art skills to the making of masks, props, costumes, and makeup design, as well as fabricating giant puppets.

After UMO, in 1993, Moody did school residencies throughout the Puget Sound area and created the Movement Towards Performance workshop series. He also created the Tacoma Health Departments Prevention Theater program, performed with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, served as Artistic Director of the Islewilde Performance Festival, and made giant puppets and performed them with Zambini Brothers (managed by adjunct professor Bill Jarcho).

In 2010, Bill Jarcho and Jim Johnson invited Moody to teach at DigiPen Institute of Technology. Since then, he has continued to teach Acting for Animation as well as The Language of Drawing (ART 101), Fundamentals of Visual Expression (ART 102), and Principles of Composition & Design (ART 126).

Currently, besides being a full-time faculty member at DigiPen, Moody is the Managing Director of Chameleon Performance, an entertainment company that specializes in roving characters and transformational performance experiences in corporate, public, and private settings.

Among his notable achievements, Moody has designed a set for a Committee for Children video that received a Golden Eagle Cine Award; written the first children’s show at Teatro Zinzanni, “Zirkus Fantazmo”; written over 30 songs that have been animated by JibJab.com; performed in front of 100,000 people in Chang Kei Chek Square, TaiPei; and created a Kraken puppet for a Car Toys commercial.

Doug Parry, MFA

Associate Professor

Doug Parry received a BFA in Printmaking from the University of Washington in 1988. Between the years of 1988 and 1997, he enjoyed success as a young artist in Seattle, exhibiting at such places as the University of Washington, the Bellevue Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Center of Contemporary Art, the Linda Farris Gallery, and the Linda Cannon Gallery.

In 1997, Parry moved to Brooklyn, NY, and received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute in 2000. Since then, he has exhibited in Seattle, New York, Chicago, Vancouver, and Miami, and has been awarded grants from Pratt Institute, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and Artists’ Trust of Seattle. Parry has also served as Resident Curator at the Historic Cedar Tavern Gallery (NY) and Bandoleone Restaurant (Seattle), and is the founder of V.A.G. (Visual Art Gallery) at its first location in Brooklyn, NY. Parry has taught Life Painting at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY), the College of Saint Elizabeth (Morristown, NJ), and Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY). Locally, he has taught painting and drawing at Gage Academy of the Arts (Seattle), at Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle), and at Kirkland Arts Center (Kirkland, WA).

Parry’s private and public collections include placements in homes and businesses in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York, and Rome. Parry is a sought-after portrait artist commissioned by noteworthy businesspersons, doctors, writers, actors, and musicians internationally. His work has been seen on television, in film, on album covers, t-shirts, murals, and posters since 1983. His work is represented by Art 101 in Brooklyn, NY, and by NeoImages Gallery in Santa Barbara, CA.

Learn More

Alecia Rossano, MFA

Professor

Professor Alecia Rossano is a classically trained figurative sculptor from Seattle. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Scripps College and her Master of Fine Arts from the graduate school of the New York Academy of Art. She has also studied in Florence, Italy, which inspired her love of Renaissance and baroque art. Her work has been shown in Seattle and New York.

Before teaching at DigiPen, Professor Rossano taught 3D modeling and animation as well as art history and figure drawing at Henry Cogswell College. She was also the producer for student projects at Mesmer Animation Labs in Seattle. In 2006, she was selected to teach a sculpture workshop for teens at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

Currently, Professor Rossano teaches art history, figure drawing and figurative sculpture at DigiPen. She believes strongly that art is a teachable skill and enjoys sharing her knowledge with all students with a passion to learn. She is particularly excited to see how the next generation of artists will apply classical techniques and knowledge to work created in new media.

For more information about Professor Rossano, visit aleciarossanosculptress.blogspot.com.

Ken Turner

Senior Lecturer

Ken Turner discovered the wonders of ceramics early in life. In 1972 he entered Peninsula Community College before graduating from Sammamish High School to pursue his education and career in clay. He apprenticed with a potter/designer/craftsman in Seattle and attended countless workshops by notable ceramic artists prior to attending the Kansas City Art Institute in 1978. In 1983 Turner built his studio and kiln in Seattle where he continues to design and produce finely crafted one-off porcelain and stoneware pottery, sculptures, and decorative ceramic vessels.

Turner has had numerous exhibitions, and his work has appeared in the collection of the Washington Art consortium as well as many permanent collections including the Northwest Museum of Art & Culture, Museum of Northwest Art, and The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA. Turner’s work has also been shown and collected internationally, including the Concept Exhibition of Post Imperial Porcelain at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.

Turner has defined his career in all aspects of the clay world, from studio pottery production to refined one-offs of decorative porcelain vessels and clay sculpture to kiln design and fabrication. Considered a master of his craft, Turner has toured and lectured across China including The Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and The Fine Arts College of Shanghai University. He has been a respected teacher of ceramic techniques at universities, colleges, and art centers since 1994. He is currently a BFA instructor of Ceramics and the Director of the Plastic Arts lab at DigiPen, where he designed and equipped the ceramic facility and the ceramic classes curriculum.

“Introducing DigiPen students to clay and the ceramic arts has been very rewarding to me personally,” Turner says. “Helping students get past their struggles and frustrations and seeing the joy of success and accomplishment on their faces never gets old.”

Visit Turner’s website at www.kenturnerpottery.com.

Learn More

Take the Next Step

Get started with our in-depth information packet!

Sign up to receive our degree program viewbook and other resources to help you determine if a DigiPen education is right for you.

Request Information

Start Your Application

Ready to take your education further? Head to our secure application portal and submit an application for admission.

Apply Online