Specializing while having personal projects?

I have had to reflect a little on my 3d art journey, and the biggest problem I have found was that I didn’t specialize and kept bouncing around projects never finishing them because I didn’t understand what industry expectations were actually like and so I didn’t trust myself to make a simple and specific curriculum, and so I got caught up in assumptions that led to daunting projects I would keep abandoning. When people told me to avoid thinking about facts of the industry I didn’t know such as job statistics and rather personal projects I was motivated by, focusing on doing things I liked, I twisted the advice by making daunting personal projects I thought could show proficiency in all parts of the pipeline, and just ended up with a sea of WIPS. Trying to take a step back and ask for advice about the animation industry, I wanted to know how specialists still make time for personal projects that might require them to do more general work to complete, specifically how a character animator/rigger might make time to make a character model/rig on the side.

I know the simple answer would be that confidence in your main specialization would give you the confidence to move onto other topics rather than feeling like an amateur spread too thin in both topics, but how do you measure when you hit that point of confidence that you can do more things? Especially in the film and general entertainment industry, how do you avoid always worrying whether you’re good enough for the next gig, or even whether you’re good enough for a first gig? How do you embrace trial and error, even when facing topics such as work? I was always too nervous about choosing the wrong specialization in terms of the actual workload and demand that I never sat down and let myself work on one specific thing I liked. How do you calm down and just choose a path, regardless of what happens?

Hello !

It’s a bit late for me to address everything correctly, but I’ll do a quick run through and maybe elaborate a bit latter !

That’s ok, some people tend to specialize some other like to try everything and are more generalist.
That’s my case too. But it’s a tough road to take because it takes more time to become relevant for a job.
But a generalist profile is interesting especially in small teams. And at some point having a broad view of every step in the process can lead you to a CG supervisor job. But yeah it already takes time to be good at modeling, how many time it will takes to be good at modeling, lighting, shading, rigging, scripting, animating…
If you’re a generalist you don’t need to be the best modeler, but still being able to manage something correct.

I think, most people start CG and do daunting, unfinished projects, especially when they have a generalist profile. It’s a great way to learn and they’ll turn out to be very valuable.
But that’s not the only way to learn. You can focus on simpler project, mainly exercise to improve and have something relevant to put in a professional portfolio.
It’s best to manage a bit of both !

That depends, when working on freelance job you may have free time to work and improve. We are driven by passion after all.
In general even if you’re specialized to get to a higher level some basic knowledge of other parts of the pipeline is great , especially if they relate to your specialization.
If you’re a character modeler , knowing a bit of rigging will make you instantly better !
Because you’ll model with rigging in mind. And you may not do the final rig, but you’ll share the same language with the person in charge of rigging.

If you’re a character animator, having rigging skills is great.
If you’re a rigger, character modeling skills and animation skills are great.
Shading, lighting, → compositing.
Hard surface modeling → concept art, surfacing/lighting.

Yeah, confidence is one thing, that can be the pleasure to learn too… You do great character modeling, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make a quick rig, do a basic posing , basic lighting when presenting to a client / art director /producers . Chances are that the same character will get way more positive feedback with that rather than being in a T pose. But if you begin, maybe it’s best to concentrate only on modeling.

Hum, share your work, do you already have a portfolio ? Get feedback from a few professional to see what you need to improve or if that will do. Then apply to some jobs. You may not know if you’re ready because you lack professional experience. In the other hand , recruiters will quickly understand what you’re capable of based on your work. And if you can fit the job. So no worries about that !

Look also to work for small companies, I started in a small companies that did mainly corporate videos. Not the most interesting thing but I learned a lot , and that fit very well my generalist profile : " Jack of all trade , master of none" …
Latter I focused on different aspect for a long period of time. So I managed to get to a medium level in many areas. But that takes time, it’s better to start to work first instead of waiting to be ready. It never append as much as we want. Once you’ll start to work, many of your questions will answers by themselves.

Hahaha, trial and errors is part of the job, nothing get perfect on the first go. Somehow we need to fail in order to win. If you can adapt, understand why it doesn’t work and what could be needed to make it work, then it’s not failure, it’s part of the iterative process.

It’s not like you should decide now to do rigging and forget about everything else for the rest of your life. It’s great to follow your passion. If you like rigging , learn about rigging…
If that’s what you like, you’ll put the hours in learning, and end up being good in that. Rather than forcing yourself into a middle ground. That’s at least how it works for me.

Of course, it’s great to know a bit about where you going (that’s where professional feedback can be important) .
If you plan to learn character animation, you should know that most of them are specialist, and it takes a lot of practice to be good, it’s better to focus only on that for a long time.

A lot of people know how to model and texture, so it may not easy to get a job.
There are some stuff like rigging or scripting that are a pain a few people like to impose to themselves, so yeah if you’re good at that it may be easier to find a job. But it would be a total failure if you don’t like it at least to some extent :smiley:

Yeah I know it’s not very reassuring , better to do what you like first , then show your job, and try to move on cleverly !
It’s not all about what you can do in blender. In the professional world communication take a big place. Most of the time it’s better to work with someone less talented but who understand what is at stake and is easy to work with, rather than a super talented artist but who don’t understand client notes, or who is too egocentric. It’s a team work !

And at some point, especially if you like to touch everything and being a generalist, you should manage to do a few but good rather than trying many advanced stuff that is likely to be not good enough.

To do a bit of everything , simple stuff, but good, is very fine ! Rather than trying being a VFX company on your own (that’s kind of what I tried when beginning, and obviously failed big time :smiley: )

Feel free to share your work and people may give you more advice based on that.
If you don’t go to an art school , finding the first job could be long and tough. But if that’s really what you want it can be worth to keep insisting and improving. Try to meet people, connect to other people doing CG can do you very good too !


@Lemonsareok , you should know that @sozap is both an industry professional and an extremely wise and experienced expert. You’ll be hard to pressed to find better advice than this :slight_smile:

I’m not just giving out random compliments, I mean that you should read this reply thoroughly and carefully and save it to re-read it in the future. Take it to heart and it will definitely help you out a lot :smiley:

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Hahaha, no it’s just some point of view, I can relate to what @Lemonsareok said ! I’m sure many professional artists here will have good points to add to the conversation !

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Try to get a 3d/CG job and let the job mature you. Working in real world projects is the best education and focusing you can get.


I can only answer:

Trying to take a step back and ask for advice about the animation industry, I wanted to know how specialists still make time for personal projects that might require them to do more general work to complete, specifically how a character animator/rigger might make time to make a character model/rig on the side.

Perhaps prioritise what is least draining for you personally.
After a couple of years into it, either you’re in freelance, corporate career or hobby you’ll eventually hit issues with motivation where habit and purpose can fail.

Habit fails because you question if this is really all there is to work in life, why keep grinding on a skill I hate, if this is going to be a big portion of my career, I may just quit because it’s not worth it. (Need better reason as to why your doing this skill to obtain food).

Purpose will fail due to starting out with higher ambitions as is the case at the start of an endeavour (I want to share my imagination to the world and have fun inspiring others… broke down for me). Takes a good mile to walk and eventually you’ll hit the mid - low consciousness where you don’t care because you’re too busy working hard for food and meeting expectations, things fall apart when your mental structures supporting your journey isn’t strong enough. Others have family or competition with friends etc I don’t know other reasons. A high consciousness reason for me today is the pain of not doing it is worse than the pain of doing it (art). Mid - low consciousness is to work just enough in what I really want to do, and just enough to not starve, and enough to feel I’m creating and producing something. Just so I can enjoy more free time doing other things (reading, video games and anime etc) and feeling recharged (bonus is feeling overcharged). I’ve been working less and less because I don’t need to slave for money I don’t need when I live minimally but enough to feel fulfilled when I create things (not pent up in my imagination).

You can only burn out so many times that just coming back or continuing a project give you anxiety.

Note: doesn’t have to be burn out, you can just do 4 hours a week on a part of 3D and you’ll feel it, that’s a clear indication that it has to be the lowest priority in your arsenal scope.

I guess this is from my own personal struggles because the only thing keeping me in 3D after trying to be a generalist is I’m finding 70% of the skills in 3D to be a chore.

Working on big projects needs to be done with more planning.
For example I like texturing far more than sculpting and modelling. I find UV Mapping fine. Rendering is boring. Hate Retopo with a passion.

  • 10% Modelling
  • 10% Sculpting
  • 50% Texturing
  • 20% UV Mapping
  • 0% Retopo
  • 10% Rendering (lighting etc)

These are my ‘3D Life’ priorities. This is also an example.

So focus on projects that require less modelling and more texturing in this example scenario. Such as small easy props but with the best textures. For example shields, walls, simple furniture, murals etc.

I also go through a perfectionist struggle where if it’s too easy, then don’t bother. But choosing big projects is too much effort because I’ll have to sculpt and model more… and then I end up not wanting to complete it when I’m 40% through it.

If you want to create incredible renders or other big project side hobbies you just have to endeavour in, perhaps team up with hobbyist in 3D discord communities or buy pre-made assets/ find free assets, then slightly tweak and work on it with the skill you like the most.