Are you a student who wants a job as a 3D artist? Well you’re probably making the same mistake every other student makes. In fact, you’re on my site because you do it!
So you want a job as a 3D artist?
Nobody has ever been hired just because they know the buttons to push in Maya. or Max or ZBrush or Mudbox or whatever. The tool is irrelevant.
People get hired because they are a good artist. That’s it.
But the vast majority of students I’ve encountered are convinced that learning software is the secret to success. When I was a student, I thought the same thing!
Think of it this way – this is the same as saying that in order to be good at drawing, you just need to learn how to work a pencil. Obviously false!
Learning that next tool, that new technique, is not the secret to success.
So why are most people convinced that knowing the software is so important?
I think there are two big reasons.
First: software mastery is an easy, tangible goal
Feeling like you know Maya offers a clear sense of progress and mastery. It is something easy to point at make a checklist and tick off all the different tools you understand inside of the program. This is nice and clear cut!
An artist needs to master their tools, certainly. But having mastery of your tools is taken as a given. That is the very bottom-most rung of being a professional artist!
Second: these tools are hard to use
3D software is about as unintuitive as art can get. The technical challenges required to use the program are immense. It is easy to lose focus of the art, and concentrate entirely on just using the software.
And learning these tools is hard. It is definitely an accomplishment! But learning the tool is just the first step. Once you know the tool, then you start on the road to becoming an artist that uses that tool.
What should you do instead? Focus on the art!
Do what I wish I had done as a student – take lots of traditional art classes. The classes I took and the books I read about composition, lighting, and color theory were absolutely indispensable.
So take art classes! Want to be a character artist? Take some life drawing or anatomy classes! Want to be a lighting artist? Take photography classes! Want to be an environment artist? Take interior design or architecture classes!
Even learning traditional mediums is helpful. Sculpting in clay is way more intuitive than ZBrush. Doing 2D animation with paper and pencil can help learn animation fundamentals.
Better yet – take them all, regardless of how you want to specialize. You never know where you’ll find your niche. Your time as a student is when you should be exploring your interests, not narrowing them. That comes later!
Remember – learn the technical, but always stay focused on the art side of things. That is your real goal if you want a job as a 3d artist!