Video-game art design shines at VALA display

Paper bearing complex and colorful designs hung from the walls at VALA Art Center in Redmond on a recent Thursday morning, but unlike previous exhibits, the current series is a little different.

All the art on display at the gallery is video-game focused and ranges from concept sketches up to completed visual models. Tables filled with computers line the walls where people can play many of the games as the concept art for the games sits on the walls above the stations.

Long tables with plexiglass covers allow visitors to check out the tabletops filled with sketches of video-game characters, landscapes and a range of other artistic creations.

This is a first for the studio, said VALA board member Stephane Boss.

“What is fine art? This is fine art,” he said. “We want to be inclusive of all kinds of artists and backgrounds.”

The exhibit, which runs through July 30, is called Game On! The Art of Game Design and is free.

Dawn Laurant, the art programs director, said visual design in video games has increased rapidly in recent years. Whereas many games used to be primarily driven by their mechanics, now many, especially indie games that are featured heavily in the exhibit, rely on atmosphere and visual storytelling.

Laurant said they made it a point to include the initial concept sketches and not just finished products as a way to show people, and particularly children, that it’s a process and to stoke their curiosity.

“It’s that spirit of innovation, that spark of creativity,” she said.

Video-game art design allows new artists a way to make a living off their craft. Laurant said it also illustrates where art and technology intersect.

Laurant said the response they received from local artists was great, as more than 25 allowed their work to be showcased. Game design studios are also participating in the display.

VALA was created in 2010 as a way for the community to interact with artists and its mission is to connect them with the community.

“We know space is hard to find and quite expensive,” Boss said. “The community aspect is super important.”

On top of displays, the center also focuses on events that bring different cultures and communities together to facilitate intercultural learning and dialogue.

They also host workshops and art classes for varying skill levels, ranging from beginner to master that are mostly free.

Workshops relating to game design will be held each Saturday at the gallery.

The first will be held on June 15 and is called ‘The Art of the Game Panel Discussion,” where artists and industry leaders will discuss their inspiration and process for their artwork.

On July 13 there will be a workshop where game art directors and designers will discuss opportunities for new artists in the game industry and review portfolios. Both of these events are free and begin at 6 p.m.

On June 10, 17 and 24 there will be DigiPen workshops where participants will learn the basics of storyboarding and character design. The classes begin at 9:30 a.m. and are for teens ages 13 to 17 and cost $45 per person. There is a 12-student limit for these classes.

VALA is located at 7525 166th Ave. N.E.

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