MFA Student Profiles

The following students are enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts degree program at DigiPen.

2015 Cohort

Laura Barbour

Laura earned her Bachelor of Science in Digital Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 2014, and was part of the first group of students to obtain a minor in the new Cartoon and Comic Studies program. Her interest in art began in her early teens, when she picked up her first comic book (Wonder Woman, Vol. 2 #219). She continued to focus on comics and cartoons throughout her collegiate career, during which her own comics were printed in two campus publications, Art Ducko and Siren. Currently, Laura is working toward her MFA at DigiPen, and she hopes to one day be a character artist in the game industry.

Artist Statement

As an artist, I've always been interested in two things: humor and horror. I like to create things that make people laugh, because it feels good to make others feel good. In the same vein, I like to create things for people who like to feel bad! As a long-time fan of scary movies, I often seek to horrify and entertain in my personal work, and many of my pieces contain monsters and other spooky subjects. I am also inspired by the human form, and enjoy doing detailed anatomical studies. I'm always looking to create bigger and better monsters, and hope that in the future my creatures will make their way into games to scare and delight the next generation of horror fans!

Laura Barbour Slideshow

Alex Bennett

Alex L. Bennett was born in 1985 in Bellingham, Washington. he was raised in Boise, Idaho and returned to Washington in 2004 to pursue a degree in art at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. After graduating Cum Laude from Cornish in 2008, he continued making work from his small in-home studio on Capitol Hill. Alex has shown work in local Seattle galleries including Columbia City Gallery, Art Not Terminal, and artEAST Art Center in Issaquah. Both a lover of nature and urban hiker, Alex is continually exploring the points at which these two interests connect.

Continuing his education as an artist and creative professional, Alex is pursuing an MFA in digital art at DigiPen Institute of Technology. Alex is currently focusing on adapting his artistic style and sensibilities for UI/UX design applications and digital illustration.

Artist Statement

I have always loved natural history and scientific illustration. I also enjoy street art and graffiti. Both of these traditions have influenced my own style and aesthetic. I am n active hiker that explores both urban and wilderness terrain. In my drawings and paintings, I am interested in exploring points in our landscape where man-made developments and the natural world meet. I combine images of nature with urban elements or structures. Through the juxtaposition of imagery, I create new landscapes and present works that are all at once vaguely familiar, nostalgic, and sometimes disturbing.

My digital work is focused on incorporating my art and graphic style both in UI/UX design and digital illustration. I am pushing myself to use my traditional art training in new digital mediums.

Alex Bennett Slideshow

Joseph Bramlett

Joseph Bramlett’s passion for art is closely followed by his love for video games, music, and people. He grew up all over the continental U.S. — born in Upland, California, and moving as far south as Boca Raton, Florida, with a few stops between. Now, Joseph is pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington.

Joseph received his undergraduate degree in Studio Art with a minor in Philosophy at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) in the spring of 2014. While pursuing his Bachelor’s degree, Joseph was a leading member of the Studio Art Coalition and helped organize group events, workshops, and critiques for the department and made a special effort to help curate the annual art exhibition by creating new and unique work of his own and helping his cohort to do the same. During the same time, he worked as a studio assistant with famed artist Peter Lippincott, whose 35+ years of experience as an independent potter earned him the Arkansas Living Treasure Award in 2010. His ability to adapt to any number of situations has enabled Joseph to be a freelance art handler for the Regional Art Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and even substitute teach at his alma mater.

Artist Statement

My objective is to explore a variety of artistic platforms and mediums in order to interact with my audience while striking a balance between aesthetic, subtext, and incentive.

Joseph Bramlett Slideshow

Wu-Gene Hong

Wu-Gene Hong is a 25-year-old artist of Korean heritage living in Seattle, Washington. Wu-Gene earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cartooning degree in 2014 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is now currently attending DigiPen Institute of Technology as a Master of Digital Arts student.

Though he initially went to SVA to become a cartoonist, Wu-Gene became more exposed to other creative fields during his years of study. Eventually, he decided to make a complete career reversal and decided to pursue a path in the video game industry, specifically as a concept artist. Coinciding with his shifting goals, Wu-Gene began focusing on character design, environment art, 3D/vehicle design, and illustration. These interests have led Wu-Gene to where is now, and he hopes that a master’s degree in Digital Arts will help him establish his future career in video games.

Artist Statement

Video games, mainly Xbox games, started it all. The moment I dove into the world of games, I was awestruck by the variety of fictional worlds and characters that captured my imagination. Creativity has always been a part of me, and I want to build upon my skills to bring entertainment to a large audience. I have no greater desire than to translate my creative ideas onto a canvas to amaze and even inspire other artists to follow a career in game art. To ensure my dreams can become reality, I decided I needed more training and education specific to this field. I hope to gain knowledge and skills from DigiPen that will help me press on and become a great concept artist.

Wu-Gene Hong Slideshow

Geoff Kaiser

Geoff Kaiser was born in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, and studied Studio Arts and Japanese Language and Literature at the University of California in Irvine. Having played games his entire life, Geoff enjoyed serving the university's Video Game Development Club as Vice President, Art Director, and President. There, Geoff helped welcome an ever-growing roster of designers, programmers, and artists, as well as facilitate events and work with university faculty to develop the school’s game programs. After graduating, he decided to continue to develop his design and modeling skills at DigiPen Institute of Technology, first independently, then by enrolling as an MFA student.

Artist Statement

The themes of self-discovery, maturation, and responsibility are very important to me, and the ability to create a story in which the viewer takes that journey with their characters is a unique opportunity. Games are an art medium that has only begun to find its footing. As technology improves, the possibilities grow ever more numerous. My intention is to help explore that potential, and improve games as a means of connecting the creators with their players. I don't want games to be just a product — I want them to be meaningful experiences.

Sen Lieh Kiew

Sen Lieh Kiew (or "Q" to his friends) is an animator and artist with a background as a broadcast designer. He graduated from Oral Roberts University and is continuing his education at the DigiPen Institute of Technology by obtaining a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts. He made DigiPen's Dean's Honor List during the fall semester of 2015, and is currently plunging into Maya Python scripting and honing his conceptual art skills with Zbrush.

Artist Statement

I am an avid animator expanding my knowledge of character rigging so I can create boundary-breaking digital character assets.

Richard Tran

Richard Tran is an artist who earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking degree from Missouri Southern State University in 2015. He has studied abroad for black-and-white photography, printmaking, and architecture, and is currently attending DigiPen Institute of Technology to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Digital Arts. He enjoys working in mixed media, such as by combining printmaking with other traditional media. Outside of school, Richard has worked as an assistant muralist in the creation of one of the largest murals in Joplin, Missouri.

Artist Statement

My traditional artwork is about humanity and the effects of evolution. The subjects revolve around the cycle of life and death — a never-ending repetition — and explore the duality of structure and chaos. By attending DigiPen, I hope to broaden my use of media and learn the skills necessary to become a lighting artist.

Richard Tran Slideshow

Javier Valdez

Javier Valdez is an artist and screenwriter from Mexico City who is currently living in Redmond, Washington, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts degree at DigiPen Institute of Technology.  Javier earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Undergraduate Film & Television degree at the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As an undergraduate, Javier produced the award-winning animated short Tough Guy and graphic novel Snowbaby. After graduation, Javier joined the writing staff at Baboon Animation in Brooklyn, where he has written for several high-profile animated properties, including Angry Birds, Felix the Cat, and Looney Tunes. Javier continues to write for Baboon Animation and does freelance illustration and animation while pursuing his MFA. Outside his studies, Javier’s interests include natural history, cooking, and astronomy.

Artist Statement

My name is Javier Valdez, and I create. It’s what I do! It’s what makes me happy. Throughout my academic and professional career, I have had the opportunity to exercise creativity in various mediums - film, screenwriting, sequential art, and more. Yet the medium I find the most limitless, the one most bursting at the seams with potential, is digital art. Paint with metal! Sculpt with light! It’s science fiction, and we’re living it. With each passing year, I am thrilled at the new and amazing ways we are stripping away the barriers between the idea and the output.

Javier Valdez Slideshow

2014 Cohort

Harriet Burrows

Harriet Burrows is native to Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in anthropology and linguistics. An artist by nature, she didn't consider pursuing art as a career until several years after graduating and joining the workforce. Realizing that any other job wasn't enough, she decided to follow her passion and go back to school for a graduate degree in art.

Artist Statement

I have always had a fascination for people and where they live. In my art, I aspire to push the boundaries of creativity to create rich environments for others to explore.

Yunxia Jia

Yunxia Jia studied math, dance choreography, and studio art while pursuing her undergraduate degree in New York. She participated in exchange programs in Japan and the U.K. before working full-time at commercial art studios in Manhattan, Seattle, Portland, and Cincinnati while freelancing on the side. In 2015, she quit her job and came to DigiPen Institute of Technology to pursue her passion for art in the Master of Fine Arts in Digital Arts program.

Artist Statement

I prefer trees to skyscrapers — nature inspires my creativity. Yet, exploring crowded urban landscapes and traveling the world help me find my muses in people, too. In areas with dense populations and long histories, I enjoy good stories that connect individuals, for similar stories also happen elsewhere, possibly everywhere.

Nature has no straight lines. Straight lines are our simplification. Simplification gives us confidence, yet makes us miss the sensational parts of life. Even art is a stylish simplification of reality, albeit one that can emotionally engage. Influenced by my performing art experience, I want to create a vigorous world of art that offers fresh perspectives in our daily life.

Yunxia Jia Slideshow

Heather Smith

Heather Smith is a technical artist from Chicago. After studying animation and game design, she spent a few years as an animator and freelance artist for indie projects, mobile games, mobile apps, an animated television pilot, and a few indie PC games before joining a small studio in Chicago as a user interface artist and illustrator. Before deciding to go into digital art, Heather spent a few years studying violin and math, hobbies that she still goes back to every so often. Heather has always had an interest in technical art, and came to Redmond to study at DigiPen Institute of Technology, pursue a career in 3D modeling and character rigging, and become a skillful technical artist.

Artist Statement

Growing up, I wanted to be an astronomer and a science fiction novelist. Then, a violinist, a painter, an archeologist, a librarian, a programmer, and a comic book artist. I had a lot of different interests and went into school with a vague idea of becoming a digital artist because it combined creativity and technical problem solving. As an artist, I can combine my knowledge of many different subjects and my personal experiences to create something new.

Kelsey Sorge-Toomey

Kelsey-Sorge Toomey was born and raised on Vashon Island. Her undergraduate degree took her to Burbank, California, where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation from Woodbury University. Returning to the Puget Sound, she shifted her focus away from animation for film and television to 3D modeling, rigging, and animation for video games. A drive for deeper knowledge and understanding brought her to DigiPen Institute of Technology for her Master of Fine Arts in Digital Art. While she finishes her master's thesis, Kelsey is continuing to work as a 3D artist at a local game studio.

Artist Statement:

I loved acting and drawing as I was growing up. Combining the two with animation seemed like the next logical step. From an early age, I was also drawn to video games. I would spend hours watching my brothers play, studying the animations, the graphics, and the rendering. Over the years and especially in my time at DigiPen, I've become more drawn to the technical aspects of the art pipeline. My goal is to continue working with teams to create stunning video game content.

Kelsey Sorge-Toomey

Hao Zhou

Hao Zhou previously graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in Wuhan, China with a degree in animation. He is interested in painting and video games, and is seeking to earn a Master’s degree from DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Artist Statement

"I have been passionate about painting since I was six years old. When I was in middle school, I loved animation and video games, so I decided to be a concept artist. Since then, I have spent my time trying hard to follow my dream. That's why when I graduated from college, I came to DigiPen to improve my skills.”

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