Professionals to share insights at Redmond Digital Arts Festival

Both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the wide world of digital arts will share expertise and insights at the Redmond Digital Arts Festival, Oct. 4-5.

Both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the wide world of digital arts will share expertise and insights at the Redmond Digital Arts Festival, Oct. 4-5.

Workshops, presentations and exhibits will take place at the Redmond High School Performing Arts Center, DigiPen Institute of Technology and the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center.

All ages are welcome and most events are free but registration is required. For schedules and locations, visit

The Redmond Arts Commission, which is sponsoring the festival, encourages people from all walks of life to consider what they can contribute to the community through art.

At the Digital Arts Festival, Ben Cammarano, director of art for Microsoft Game Studios, will review artists’ portfolios. Interested parties should expect approximately a 15-minute consultation and “people should bring in their best work — self-editing is very important,” he advised.

Going into college, Cammarano said his goals were to play sports and be a comic book artist. In his sophomore year, he took a computer course and got hooked on the possibilities of blending technology and art.

He’d recommend to young people, unsure of what they want to do in a career, to “try out as much as you can. … There are generalists and specialists in the art world. If you’re going to be a generalist, you need to be strong in two or three things. If you’re going to be a specialist, you need to be incredibly strong in that one thing.”

There still are a lot of parents out there who shudder at the thought of their kids becoming artists of any sort.

“Years and years ago, the stereotype was, ‘You’re gonna make money playing games?’,” Cammarano noted.

He pointed out that it’s a $30 billion annual business, eclipsing other entertainment forms “and proving time and again that it can weather the storms of a financial market.”

People who work behind the scenes in games come from all corners of academia. There are English majors writing scripts, history and anthropology majors authenticating the details of the stories and physics majors creating special effects, said Cammarano.

Amir Stone, a recent graduate of University of Washington’s DX Arts program, will share an interactive video installation called “Blight Horizon” which was featured at the Larimore Project, a Seattle-based gallery in June. He’s also collaborating with Redmond Arts Commissioner Kamal Siegel on a Digital Dance Party feature which will allow participants to paint through dance.

A classic response Stone gets when he tells people he’s a digital artist is, “So you work with Photoshop?”

Stone clarified, “Many associate digital art with graphic design or think of a classic form of art such as painting transposed onto a computer. Although this is one thing that can be done … the scope of digital art is far surpassing this limited misconception. There is a whole universe of art in the digital domain. Video, sound, mechatronics, 3D animation, installation pieces, sensing and control pieces. Each one of these fields has as much depth and variety as painting has different styles and diversity.”

His background is in science and he added, “I think most people do not realize the amount of rigor that must go into art in order for it to be successful. …The only roadblock is that digital arts is such a new concept that it has not been widely studied in school or formal settings and it will take some time before people are more educated about the field.”

Chris Taylor, CEO and creative director of Redmond-based Gas Powered Games, will also give a presentation at the festival.

Taylor said his company will give away posters for registered guests and his talk will focus on the struggle to create an innovative game in today’s game-happy society.

He said the key to creating innovative games is to find out what “tickles people. Then you find out what excites them — sometimes it’s trial and error. You just have to continue to explore.”

He said an event like the Digital Arts Festival is long overdue.

“It’s ideal,” said Taylor. “We’re pretty excited about (the festival). We live in an incredible part of the world. You could call it the mecca of the gaming industry.”

Taylor is best known for creating “Total Annihilation” and last year, Gas Powered Games released “Supreme Commander” and its expansion, “Forged Alliance.” This year, the company will unleash its newest game, “Space Siege,” and next year, it will release “Demigod.”

Bill Christianson, Redmond Reporter Editor, contributed to this story.