Mistakes New CG Artists Make

(4tonmantis) #1

1. Software A is the best ever! Anyone who uses anything else is dumb and not an artist. This deals largely with a part of natural human behavior. We learn something one way and from that point it’s what we associate as the correct way. Software, by itself, is simply a tool for creating something. Many new members of various CG communities are overly excited and often misplace this enthusiasm and energy in a few different ways. I’ll only talk about the two that you should avoid (in my opinion) and mention ways of counteracting this. First, by attempting to ostracize people who aren’t in the same all or nothing mindset. This is outwardly hurtful to people who are either new and not as enthusiastic or are using other tools alongside Blender or whatever application is in question. The second is more inwardly damaging, since it cuts the artist off from many possibilities… and I refer to it as the ostrich. This is essentially where the artist simply avoids any other applications or tools for fear of “contaminating” their knowledge. It can be daunting to attempt to learn multiple packages to be sure, but there are many benefits from having more tools in the toolbelt.
2. Reference is cheating. While in college I saw this all the time. Artists would act as though everything should be modeled purely from imagination and animation should come from intuition alone. I can’t even begin to tell you how foolish this is. From the modeling side, I have worked in simulation and training… and frankly, if the objects weren’t authentic, the product wouldn’t be accepted. Unless you are some kind of freakish cyborg, you will need reference images. If you need further proof of this… ask yourself why every 3d application on the market (free or otherwise) has some kind of image plane/projection. Modeling from reference is not “tracing”. From an animation standpoint you also have to ask why you are able to import image sequences into reference planes… but moreover, having studied at Animation Mentor and taken part in other discussions, webinars, and workshops with animators from top studios, they all start off with reference. Eventually, some do move off of reference unless they hit a particularly tricky shot… but this is after a decade or two of experience in most cases.
3. Traditional art skills have nothing to do with 3d art and animation. I see new artists posting images for critique all the time. Without fail, composition is the first thing I notice. Outside of that, knowledge of color harmonies, value, contrast, rhythm, etc, etc are all typically absent. I’ve had a few artists ask me to tutor them and as soon as I tell them they need to start studying paintings of old masters, they decide that I don’t have anything to teach them suddenly. The problem is that many 3d artists don’t see themselves in the same way a painter does. This has a lot to do with the art world at large and the sense from many analog painters that 3d is a gimmick. However, this viewpoint has diminished more and more as 3d is being accepted and enduring to produce some amazing imagery. The first thing any aspiring 3d artist needs to learn is not how to model, render, light, texture, or whatever… It’s how to compose an interesting image. Without knowledge of things like value statements, the rule of thirds, complimentary colors, etc… your art will never proceed to it’s full potential.
4. Knowledge of software is enough. This is similar to the reference point and deals with a number of posts I see asking for people to critique a head or a body or some other form of anatomy. The problem is, people are attempting to model things they don’t have a firm grasp on. This isn’t limited to knowledge of the human figure, or the previously mentioned traditional art knowledge… but general knowledge. Another example is people attempting to create animations. They set off just randomly keying movement without any forethought and planning and hit render, then don’t understand when people have negative feedback. If you’re going to do something, do it right. Understand that people have been creating art, movies, animations, and sculpture for a long time. When someone suggests that you research storyboarding techniques or camera angles, or script writing… it’s for a reason. Artists who have been creating in these mediums have taken the time to refine these processes so that they are efficient and hopefully with the least amount of tedium.
5. An “animation” has to be 1 shot. I see a lot of animations that are of something that doesn’t involve a lot of complexity…but they drag it out over 11 seconds or more. If you take a look at most films… when something happens that’s unimportant, it’s not on screen for longer than a few seconds… Learn this cinematic timing and try to use multiple shots.
6. The difference between shots and scenes. From the above but more specifically, understand that a scene is like a paragraph or chapter. Shots are typically the single ideas that comprise these divisions. Again… watch movies or shows and pay attention to how often the camera cuts… Look at what happens between these cuts and try to hone in on what the idea is between each one. The way it was explained at Animation Mentor was that each shot should be 1 idea… that is it. So, if your planned scene is a person riding a bike up to a mailbox and then dropping off a letter, try breaking it up. The first shot should establish our character… riding along on his bike. Take the opportunity to establish who they are. Have them whistling if they’re a happy person or scowling if they’re a fowl sort. The next shot should be of them arriving at the mailbox. You can include them dropping the letter at this point if you like… but why not break that up to draw emphasis on the act of dropping the letter?
7. Photoreal is the pinnacle of 3d. Photoreal is a personal goal. Believability however, is far more important. It really doesn’t matter if you make realistic people… if they’re not believable, it’s a waste of time. In still images this can be as simple as rotating furniture so that it has a more “lived-in” look. In animation this is more broad. The characters in 101 Dalmatians (2d if you’re not familiar) are far more believable than the characters in Polar Express. Study these films or others and learn what drives these differences. It’ll make you a stronger artist.

(4tonmantis) #2

8. Thinking you’re done learning. We have a tendency to feel like we’ve mastered something after accomplishing a feat that is challenging. We feel like we know all their is to know about something after having poured hours, years, or even decades of our lives into it. The thing is, with 3d or any other technology-based discipline, it’s always changing. Blender in particular, changes so often that you can literally find a whole different program in the span of months at a time. The underlying system will be there, but new features pop up like bunnies. Not only that, but also remember, 3d art requires more than the simple ability to operate the software. It’s an instrument… to compose the art you need to understand the rest of the components.
9. Not internalizing critique. It’s really difficult to adjust to hearing negative things about our work. In a perfect world, everyone would present their feedback in a polite and helpful way… and always be accurate. This world (especially the internet) is highly imperfect though. Many times feedback is either purely negative, inaccurate, too opinionated, or otherwise not helpful. One of the most valuable skills we can learn, is to identify the helpful feedback and take it as part of our learning process. Attempt to learn from the negative feedback but if it’s genuinely upsetting, then just let it sit exactly the way it is. Don’t reply with your emotional response, just move on. This is very hard to do when dealing with something that took hours to complete, but again… this world is imperfect. The other thing I see a lot is new artists (and some old ones :stuck_out_tongue: ) rationalizing their mistakes. This can be “oh it’s just my style” or any of a number of other excuses or explanations. Critique can be invaluable. Learn to use it properly. If giving critique, remember… the person receiving the critique has a vested interest in the work.
10. Being stuck in tutorial-land. I see a lot of new artists get stuck in a tutorial and either languish in limbo or just altogether shut down. I think the tendency is for the artist to get too close to the tutorial and forget that the purpose is to get them into it and get their hands dirty in the software. If you get stuck in a tutorial, just start playing and having fun. I would recommend saving first but sometimes just getting in and messing around is what you need to dislodge the block that’s in your way. The other side of this is some artists get stuck ONLY doing tutorials and never actually create and experiment. I like to try and mix this up by doing something similar to what is in the tutorial while still following the underlying steps. This allows you to experiment and also see how the concept is applied outside of the very specific pre-planned example. Then, take what you learned and make something with that knowledge!
11. 3d is always 3d… As soon as you stop moving the cursor, your scene becomes 2d. More accurately, it’s a simulation of 3d. As soon as you render your image, it’s 2d. From that point, you aren’t spoiling the image by painting on it or applying a post effect via Photoshop/Gimp, etc. Also, don’t feel like your backgrounds have to be a full on 3d scene. Filmmakers have been using matte backgrounds since the creation of the medium… all the way back to stage plays having painted backdrops even. Obviously the style, quality, etc. of the background needs to be taken into consideration, but don’t shy away from this just because it’s “not 3d”. I’ve done a few paintovers and got back “now I have to figure out how to do that in 3d”. To me this is hilarious…because the point is the final image… not whether or not it was all created inside of the 3d package.
12. Doing tedious things in extremely tedious ways. I’ve seen so many videos, tutorials, and other examples of CG Artists doing something in the most difficult way I can imagine. One example is people who write scripts to rotate objects based on a slider or similar. On finger controls, I can see this… but if you have a rig (for example) that has a whole bunch of flaps, tying all of this to a wiring board instead of just slapping a control curve on it is a little bit ridiculous. Or someone setting up an elaborate simulation just to have a ball bounce and then roll. This can be subjective but automating the clicking of a lathe/revolve/loft/etc command rather than simply clicking it or rebinding it seems very counterproductive (unless you’re just learning to code). If you’re doing something and it takes you more than 15 minutes… step back… look at what you’re trying to accomplish and break out the shaving cream and Ockham’s Razor and go to town.
13. Taking the wrong shortcuts. A lot of the time this is mostly about being lazy. Animating without planning, modeling without gathering reference, etc. I hear a lot of “I just grabbed this texture from CGTextures and slapped it on”. Uh… wow.. they just happened to have a texture that was a perfect match to the outer hull of an alien spacecraft? Ok… maybe… but you should still take it in and adjust it… personalize it etc… so that you’re not just slapping in a texture… This can go with dropping in lights, etc. Yes, there is a timeframe where you really have to just do what you can… but if you have very little time, get the important features right first. This is everything from anatomy to edgeflow/topology, and even UV mapping. Some things can be faked or added in post production… Ockham’s Razor should already be warmed up from number 12 so just whip it right back out.
14. Believing that your art should always be yours. Don’t get me wrong… you have creator’s rights (in most places). However… if you sign any kind of agreement or are working in any kind of studio or on any kind of collaboration… Your work is going to become part of a larger body of ownership. Moreover, you’re going to have to create work that doesn’t come purely from inspiration. Producers don’t have time for you to be inspired to model a bridge made out of vines… even if you’re extremely uninspired by the concept.
15. Work big to small. One thing I’ve learned is always always always start with the big picture. If you’re working on an animation… figure out the key points… start, climax, resolution, ending. If it’s a model, figure out the narrative. Don’t start honing in on the details until you’ve got that straight. If you start off modeling a characters’ wristwatch, then get bitten by the inspiration fairy halfway through and suddenly it’s a steampunk story in a post-apocalyptic world, then that watch will have to be re-worked to fit the new approach. Hint: Re-work is bad. If you’re sculpting or painting, you want to start with your basic forms/values first… If you’re composing a scene… figure out the setting… It doesn’t make sense to start in on a rope or trashcan before you’ve established your setting. Both would be very different in a laundromat, dock, office, or steel mill. This is a general concept but it applies across pretty much anything that a person can do creatively.
Hopefully these are helpful.

what does maya have that blender doesn't
(abc123) #3
  1. Requesting new features.
1 Like
(x3dx) #4

Useful even for the seasoned artist as a reminder.

1 Like
(Hikaru Ai) #5
  1. Being stuck in tutorial-land.

I see people asking for tutorials for making some specifics stuffs like: “Anyone have a tutorial to modeling a red rock from Poneloya beach at the 5 of the morning”.

(Writer's Block) #6

Can we sticky this; I’d like to have this as a reminder… Sometimes reading something like this, can get a person back on track - I’m one of those people.

Thank you for taking the time to think about this, and then to write it.

(michalis) #7

I really do agree.

(Jonathan L) #8

Thanks for that, it is a great reminder. I also agree with the sticky suggestion.

(chokeamancer) #9

The largest for me personally.

In relation, 3d is so much beyond knowing art concepts.

A painter can know about perspective and not care about sensor/lens size or how particles interact with each other or IOR values. Depending on the scene, a 3d artist needs to know about all of them AND how to use them effectively.

(jcue) #10

This a good kick in the pants. I seem to get stuck in tutorial land and not do much of anything else.

Thank you

(motorsep) #11

Now that’s something interesting. Could you please explain what you mean exactly and how can that be done in Blender? :slight_smile:

(BTolputt) #12

Very nice, 4tonmantis. Hell, I see some of the mistakes I made early on and (embarrassingly) one or two I still have to correct. This should be in poster form. It’d be one I hang up in the study where I teach my sons what little I know about art and graphics (my eldest is turning out some good work for a 12 year old!).

@moderators: First post on a useful thread… and right there is your pet troll. Please address this.

(holyenigma74) #13

comments have been censored by Bender Artists

(jzbosco) #14

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the first one. My response is always the same, ‘you want to enter a creative field based on visual arts, but you don’t want to learn the basics’. Kind of like going into writing novels and refusing to learn how to use adjectives. It’s really kind of amazing some folks still think like that, specially since there are so many recorded progress videos out there that show how a movie was made from first concept to finished film- they all show at the least, thumbnails tacked to a wall for everything from character development to scene ideas. “But I just want to model, dude. I can’t draw, tried for about five minutes once but couldn’t. I don’t have time to learn to draw anyway, I got to put together my demo reel.” lol

The second one: since I was interested in movies, I decided to count the seconds of each shot and scene of my favorite movie for an exercise, since it just hit the dvd store, Final Fantasy VII was the movie I picked on. I can’t remember the numbers but it was about three or four sheets of paper full. It was an eye opener. Go ahead, jump over to youtube and watch Sintel. Don’t just count the shots and scenes, but time them as well. It can’t take too long - the movie is only 15 minutes…

Good points in your list 4tonmantis…

(4tonmantis) #15

Thanks for all of the positive feedback buys. A lot of the inspiration for typing this up came from really just having seen these issues come up repeatedly. Another part of it came from personal experience… both as a student and a teacher… and moreover when I graduated from a school with what I thought was a full skillset… only to find myself missing a lot of fundamentals. I really hope a ton of people read this and learn something… and also understand that there are of course more mistakes… but these are some of the things I see most often. For the past few years I had taken a bit of a professional sabbatical to beef up on the skills I have been missing… primarily that traditional art knowledge but a few other things as well. Now, I came back, did a bit of poly-modeling in Blender, then jumped over to Sculptris, now Maya… there will be a few more stops but I will be coming back full circle to Blender. The plan for me is to create a project that raises awareness of how all of these tools and others can be used together in harmony. The idea isn’t that everyone is forced to use this or that… but that everyone is making art… and feels comfortable and free to use whatever tools they have available… and maybe some they didn’t know about. I don’t believe being able to stand alone is what will bring Blender into the mainstream, but more, it’s ability to integrate.

@motorstep, You take a Bezier Circle and orient it so that it is perpendicular to the flap/control surface and aligned to the pivot. Parent the flap to the circle and then the circle to your rig. When you rotate the circle, it will rotate the flap. If you still want a wiring board you can just use the rotation of the circle but that’s kinda defeating the purpose. For information on parenting check this http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.6/Manual/Modeling/Objects/Groups_and_Parenting

1 Like
(shakquan) #16
  1. Photoreal is the pinnacle of 3d.
    Photoreal is a personal goal. Believability however, is far more important. It really doesn’t matter if you make realistic people… if they’re not believable, it’s a waste of time. In still images this can be as simple as rotating furniture so that it has a more “lived-in” look. In animation this is more broad. The characters in 101 Dalmatians (2d if you’re not familiar) are far more believable than the characters in Polar Express. Study these films or others and learn what drives these differences. It’ll make you a stronger artist.

Preach! I cannot stress this enough.

(tyrant monkey) #17

number 3 makes me laugh

(Writer's Block) #18

True, but it’s so true too.

Artist one, remonstrates with artist two:

“I’m sticking with cave-walls; they’ve worked just bloody fine all my life. You new people are always dreaming up stuff, I mean how would my fans know where to find my art if I carried the bloody things around with me?”

“What’s come before still has meaning, I’m just offering a new ways of doing things; new ways to learn and present our ideas.”

“Bah, I wonder where it will all lead to.”

“Well you could try using these new things to paint with: I call them a brush.”

“Hmm; now they look interesting…”

(Alain) #19

Thanks for that wonderful post !
You say what I always try to explain to others :slight_smile:

Kind regards

(tyrant monkey) #20

allow me to clarify , I find it funny because quiet a few post are going yeah! traditional art are important yet the traditional section of this forum is about the slowest moving part of it. And its like that on every 3d forum.

If more people are serious about their traditional art than I hope to see more posters there. Unless this another one of those do as I say not as I do situations.