When Kamal Siegel was a member of the Redmond Arts Commission, he wanted to a way to connect people in the digital arts world as well as introduce the field to the general public.
The product of his vision took the form of Redmond’s Digital Arts Festival, the first of which was in October 2008. The annual event is free and an all-ages celebration of the digital arts featuring artists and industry experts in video game production and digital technology.
“It’s an industry that I’m personally very passionate about,” said Siegel, who is a digital artist.
He added that with companies such as Microsoft, Nintendo and Bungie in the surrounding area, having a digital arts festival in Redmond was not that crazy of an idea.
This year’s festival is March 18-19 at DigiPen Institute of Technology at 9931 Willows Rd. NE in Redmond. Siegel, whose term with the arts commission has since ended, is this year’s festival curator and was in charge of the program of presenters, topics covered and artistic vision of the event.
The varied lineup he has put together is composed of nationally and internationally known individuals as well as professionals from the local area. Presenters include Bay Raitt, a senior artist for Valve; John Tynes, a lead designer at Microsoft Game Studios; and choreographer Melissa Farrar, who will perform a merger of dance, animation and motion capture.
Some of the pieces, workshops and presentations will be interactive, including Amir Stone’s Digital Graffiti, which has become a festival staple, having been included since the festival’s inception.
“It is a fun bit of technology, very playful and experimental,” Stone said. “It is basically a canvas, a blank slate for the participant to create their own art in a unique fashion.”
Digital Graffiti will be on display all day March 19 and Stone said it involves painting in the 3-D space around you with lights, and capturing that creation as an image. He added that colored glow sticks are usually provided as painting tools, but any sort of light source would work: a key-light, a cellphone, or even a bounced light from a camera flash.
Animator and storyboard artist Ryan Woodward will also be giving a lecture on March 19 at 4:30 p.m. Woodward is a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah but has also worked on various films including “Ironman 2,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Iron Giant” and “Space Jam.” He will be discussing the creative process and where and how an artist comes up with inspiration, which he admits is “kind of vague.”
Woodward, who has been in the industry for about 15 years, will also be discussing going into the industry for the money versus becoming an artist for the love of art. He said it’s very rare for people to go into his field for the money because financial stability is never a guarantee — there is always something else driving them. Woodward has always been interested in art and animation since he was a “wee lad” enjoying science-fiction films such as the “Star Wars” series.
“(Art and animation has) just been what I’ve wanted to go into,” he said. “I’ve never considered anything else.”
Woodward has also created a 2-D short animated film called “Thought of You,” which he will be screening during his presentation as well as during a festival-wide film night event on March 19.
“You should really take a look at his animation,” Siegel said about Woodward’s work. “It’s really something.”
As this is his first time in the festival, Woodward sees it as an opportunity for growth and collaboration and is looking forward to meeting other artists and talking shop.
“Anytime there is a unity of artists to celebrate art in whatever form it may be, first of all, it’s great. Second, it makes me feel humbled to be recognized in that way,” he said of his involvement.
For Siegel, networking and connecting artists is a big part of why he wanted to start the festival. He said there is already a lot of “cross pollination” in the digital world, but it all stays in the digital world. Siegel’s goal for the festival is to pull people away from their computers and have them connect with each other in person.
“There’s a lot happening already, but it’s all happening behind closed doors,” he said. “I want to see that kind of connectivity face to face.”
For more information about the Digital Arts Festival as well as a detailed program schedule, visit www.redmondartsfestival.com.