Business of Art & Design Instructor Profile
Thomas Wells, better known as TJ, is a commercial photographer and freelance graphic designer in Roanoke, Virginia. Several times a week he makes the 2+ hour trip to South Boston to teach Digital Art & Design classes in the Business of Art & Design program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (offered in partnership with Danville Community College). Meet the man who is developing Southern Virginia’s creative future one car ride at a time.
How did you become interested in photography and design?
I've always taken photos. As a child, I was never without a camera of some kind. A good family friend was a photographer and I always looked up to him. He was my inspiration to make photography my job. It has turned into a job I enjoy more than I ever expected and has taken me to incredible places and introduced me to some very interesting people.At a very early age I was fascinated with package design. I loved looking at the boxes things would come in or the labels that were adhered to products. In high school, I took a "Commercial Art" class and found out that I could actually design things like that for a living! After high school, I earned an Associate’s degree from Virginia Western Community College in Communication Design, and later, at Virginia Tech, I earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design.
Tell me a little about your professional work.
As a graphic designer, I have created local and national advertisements, catalogs, logos and other promotional materials. With seventeen years of design experience, I've worked on just about every type of design job you could imagine. A few years ago I took the leap and went out on my own. Being a full-time freelancer has taught me the value of good client relationships and hard work. I've created things for publishing companies, financial institutions, advertising agencies and even for higher education. I developed my photographic eye as an action sports photographer in the mid 1990's. I spent a lot of time traveling around the U.S. photographing professional BMX riders for both advertising and editorial use. Eventually, that led to studio photography and that's where I really excelled. I’ve won both photographic and design awards on local, regional, and national levels.
How did you come to work as an instructor in the Business of Art & Design program?
I was recruited by Ben Capozzi. He and I were at Virginia Tech at the same time. He later moved to South Boston to work at the SVHEC and start the Business of Art and Design program. When he asked if I would like to be a part of his team, I didn't even have to think about it before saying yes!
For most people a 2-hour commute and gas over $3.00 a gallon would be impossible barriers. What is it about the BA&D program that keeps you coming back?
The Business of Art and Design program at the SVHEC is the best of it's kind! The forward thinking of the administration, combined with the "go get 'em" attitude of the faculty and staff is making a program that will cause four-year universities to stand up and take notice. The focus and drive that Ben Capozzi has is a great example of that. He is determined to give his students the best quality education they can get. Ben doesn't do anything half way and I knew from the beginning that his program would be incredible. Whether our students go on to transfer into a four-year institution or go directly into the workforce, they will be prepared for whatever lies ahead of them. To say I have faith in Ben’s academic vision would be putting it mildly.What are you looking forward to in the coming semester? This is our first semester teaching the higher level courses (ART 251 and ART 283.) Those classes are where we will truly start to see our students develop into young graphic designers. It is an exciting time for both the students and the faculty.
This is Wells’ third year as a Digital Art & Design instructor in the Business of Art & Design. During the fall 2011 semester he will be teaching ART 133 Visual Arts Foundations, ART 251 Communication Design, and ART 283 Computer Graphics I. Visual Arts Foundation is an introductory course covering color theory and design concepts and principles. Communication Design I studies the principles of visual communication as applied to advertising in newspapers, magazines, direct mail, etc., and Computer Graphics instructs students in the creation of images and graphics for our increasingly screen-rich world.
The Business of Art & Design is offered in partnership with Danville Community College. For more information visit www.svhed.org, email
, or call 434-572-5566 and toll free 1-800-228-0098 ext 5566.