Media Arts and Science alumna Jordan Nelsen with her laptop

What’s in your bag? IUPUI senior creates digital paintings and prosthetic designs

April 12, 2018

(Originally published April 12, 2018. Written by Tim Brouk)

When Jordan Nelsen was a small child, she picked up a pencil and paper and began to draw, just like any kid.

A few years later, Nelsen began drawing with a pen-shaped stylus, pen tablet and laptop computer. Since elementary school, Nelsen has balanced digital drawing with “analog.” Now a senior in the Herron School of Art and Design and the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, she still carries a paper sketchbook but the digital equipment takes up more room in her backpack.

With her left hand on hot keys for erasing and choosing different brushes in programs like ZBrush, Geomagic Design X and Photoshop, Nelsen’s digital work has brought her high praise at Herron. She has assembled a portfolio of figurative fantasy pieces aimed at the video gaming industry.

Nelsen’s ability to translate her designs into 3-D pieces was honed through her classes as a Media Arts and Science (MAS) major at the School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC), and through research projects under the guidance of Zebulun Wood, co-director of the MAS undergraduate program.

The anatomical foundation of her art talents has led to life-enhancing opportunities for dental patients. A summer-school informatics and computing class with School of Dentistry maxillofacial prosthodontics resident Dr. Travis Bellicchi led to more than a dozen facial prosthetic designs the last couple of years. A 2017 nose for a cancer patient, which took her only four hours to produce, made regional news.

“Depending on the case, they can take months to complete,” Nelsen explained. “But we scanned him, we designed it, and we had it on the 3-D printer ready to go for him the next day. It happened a lot quicker than everyone thought. It was a good feeling to get that done in an unprecedented amount of time.”

“It’s one thing to paint something for myself and feel really good about it,” said Nelsen, who moved to Carmel while in high school. “It’s an entirely alien feeling to be able to say, ‘I made this thing that somebody is wearing to help improve their way of life.’ There is no feeling that’s like that.”

Set to graduate in May, Nelsen hopes to still pursue both gaming and prosthetics.

“I like to find a nice balance between the two,” Nelsen said, “from helping people and painting for myself as well.”

While she only needs three pieces of equipment to create a new video game character or new dentures to be installed into the zygomatic bone of a School of Dentistry patient, Nelsen’s backpack carries her latest work and her future career — or careers.

[Read about Nelsen’s selection to Faces of IUPUI in 2019]

Wacom Intuos Pro Pen tablet

Nelsen draws on the square of the tablet, which then transports that information to her laptop computer.

Republic of Gamers Gaming Laptop

While some laptops go for thin and lightweight, Nelsen’s computer of choice is massive due to its large screen, large memory and fast processing. “The Choice of Champions” is designed for digital media work, creation and fun.


The pen accurately mimics pressure and tilt sensitivities and angles of traditional pens, pencils and paintbrushes.

Media Contact

Joanne Lovrinic