How to Become a Professional Artist With Educational Sites
So, there are lots of sites all around to learn new and better practices for digital art. As I moved from one site to another, I found quite a few more, and each one taking me to a whole new level of art. So now I can look back at what various sites have given me, and what other sites will bring me closer to a professional standing. With all of these sites, it is more than possible to become a professional solely from subscription based sites, and workshops, completely avoiding college all together. With both 2D and 3D, once you learn the basics and fundamentals, as well as your software, it’s all about applying your style, and then learning from others, mainly professionals. So, I wanted to point out all of these awesome sites, what you can learn, how much they cost, and what you can learn from each one of them. I’ll also point out the few places I was not happy about at all, and if you are from those organizations, you can take a lesson from the other sites.
I’m going to go ahead and go in order of difficulty. A lot of sites are purely setup to offer courses on certain subjects, but if you are someone learning how to use the software, then it might be too much. Let’s take a look.
So if you are someone just getting started with 3D, 2D, Sculpting, or Unity, then this is the place to go to first. With their latest site upgrade, they give a school-like atmosphere by offering “workflow” course lines, teaching you the basics and fundamentals first, before you head off you create something big that you could easily get lost in. Not only that, they have a Community where you can ask any question related to any of the topics, and you’ll get an answer pretty quick. For the 2D artists, there is a weekly livestream, where Tim Vonn Rueden talks about a certain topic, and answers general questions.
Once you are done with the basics, they have a large archive of over 5000 video tutorials covering just about everything else. While the new site is based around Blender for 3D, there are still tutorials on 3DSMax, Modo, and ZBrush in the archives. While there are a lot of free videos, a little under $20USD a month will get you a subscription allowing access to everything. When you crave even more, they offer different workshops, where you work closely with one of the instructors, helping you become even better at your craft.
*Money Saving Tip* One little note I want to point out with CGCookie, is that they teach Blender for 3D. Blender is a great way to go if you want to save money, as it’s free! Once you learn the basics and fundamentals with it, you can easily switch to another software like Maya or 3DS Max very easily, since you already know the 3D lingo. Since both Maya and 3DSMax cost around $147USD a month now, you could easily save yourself 4 to 6 months of fees during the initial learning process.
Before I go too far into paid sites, I wanted to give the DALibrary some props. The DALibrary is a group of professional artists giving back, by offering lots of different tutorials, and resources for 2D artists. If you want to learn more about concept art, and/or illustration, but don’t want to pay for CGCookie, this is a good place to fill in the blanks when the CGCookie live stream and free stuff doesn’t cover it all. Certainly check this out if you are 2D artist. I find a lot of great content on DA, and all of it can be access from the DALibrary page.
ConceptArt.org’s Level Up Workshop
This is an ongoing workshop, where each member works with many others, working on certain pieces, and continuously watching various theory videos. The first level you can do the first two assignments free, and then continue on afterwards. I’m not sure how everything after works, but it looked like you had to pay extra to unlock the next level with a three-digit dollar amount, which I think is pure BS. Secondly, I signed up for this for two months, found that I could not make enough time to work on it, let alone watch the videos, so I emailed support asking for a prorated return, or at least hold my subscriptions back to a later date. I wrote this email a week after signing up, support sent it to the “appropriate people” 3 times for me, and I never received a response back. My two month subscription ended last week, and still I have not received an email.
In honor of the LevelUp workshop, I will stop hyping people up, and tell you all the bad parts about it. First off, if you want to watch a video, you have to wait twice the video time, because the site is slower than constipated feces. Even more so, you’re told you will get critique every day, but it isn’t until you sign up that you realize that you are REQUIRED to post critiques to at least 3 pieces each day! So basically, you are paying them to organize your studies, and now you’re forced to work for them as well.
Chris Oatley’s Magic Box
This is another I was not very happy with, and even wrote an entire review about it, but it deserves another mention. If you want to learn 2D, bought photoshop, but don’t know a damn thing about it, love Disney, and have a creepy soul that fits the Disneyesque persona, then this is the course for you. Not only is the “$18/month” price tag just a deceiving as the course itself, it would give make any 2D artist crazy. The course list has a great lineup, making you think you’re going to learn the tricks of the trade from a Disney artist. Also, keep in mind, if you are not happy with the first month, you can stop, and get your money back.
The first month looks pretty good, and you get enough content to fill a day or two. After that first month though, good luck filling an afternoon. Also, when learning textures, you are learning how to “photobomb”. Yes, you are taught to take textures from reference, and put them in your piece to make them look “real”. There isn’t even a lesson about Creative Commons or anything, just steal the damn texture. These are the things you learn in this course, and all taught by someone that things an animal Renaissance figure is the funniest fucking thing since a cartoon sliced banana. So, you keep waiting each month hoping it gets better, only learning that each one gets worse and worse, and each description is more of a lie than the last. Then you go to cancel, but wait, there isn’t an unsubscribe button. Remember where you could cancel if you didn’t like it the first month? Yep, you just got suckered into a $18/month payment plan, not a subscription (They will stop charging if you tell them in so many words, “that you are not happy with the course”).
So if you want to learn even more about Blender, you can always find awesome tutorials on Blender Guru for free. The reason I wanted to bring this site up, is because of the Architecture Academy, and Nature Academy. While both are starting to become fairly dated, the main artist, Andrew Price, likes to revive them with the latest versions. I took his Architecture Academy, and learned a lot about photorealistic architectural design in Blender. It did cost around $250USD for the basic access, but that’s all you need for the course. You can pay more to get access to all the different assets, textures, etc, but it’s up to you if you want this. Right now the Arch Academy is the most recent, done with Blender 2.67, and still teaches some more advanced modeling, and Cycles material creation. I highly recommend, even in the day of 2.75.
Woohoo! Now we start to wonder out of out comfort Zone. If you are someone that wants to learn something other than Blender, like Maya, 3DSMax, and ZBrush, go here! They also have a good amount of game development tutorials for Unity, UDK, and Unreal Engine 4. While they cover a lot of other pieces of software, this is the meat of the site. While it is basically tutorials covering different projects from start to finish, it’s pretty good for someone wanting to learn one of these other pieces of software, and not pay out the nose. Speaking of, it is a $24/month sub, and even cheaper when you buy more time (2 months/3 months/6 months/1 year).
Yeah baby, now we’re getting into the advanced shit now! So this one is another awesome online course-based tutorial site, geared to those that really want to push their craft to the limit. You can learn anything from character design, to story-boarding, and to life drawing studies. No matter if you work with 3D or 2D, this is the place to go when you know what you’re doing, but you want to give your work that professional look. Since it’s a site that offers some of the best tutorials, expect to pay a bit more than other sites. Like 3D Motive, there are two ways you can pay, by course, or full site subscription for $59USD a course, or month. Once I’m done going through the 3DMotive site, this is where I’m going next.
Last on the list, is this gem. Once you have gone though all of the instant access material elsewhere, this is where you go to get some professional interaction. With this, sign up for the CGTalk forums, post your 3D/2D work, and take in everything everyone has to say to make your work even better, and then put your finished work in your portfolio. This is your new home, where you are surrounded by a lot of professionals, and a lot of people that are working towards becoming professionals.
When you crave even more education, and lots of professional critique, it’s time to move to the CGSociety Workshops. These workshops are geared towards teaching artists how to use their tools to create production ready AAA title artwork with 3D or 2D. Various topics cover Concept Art, Character Development, Environment Creation, Animation, and even more. Each one is usually 8 weeks long, where you work with other classmates, and more importantly, the instructor who is from one of the AAA companies. The reason I point this one out last, is that these are the classes you want to take when you no longer wonder how to do something with your software, constantly make full scene pieces, but want to be the best in your industry. Yes, you could get through it with little to no experience, but the amount of knowledge you’ll take back with you will be significantly less. When the workshop is costing upwards of $800, it’s probably best to get your money’s worth.
Of course, the scheduled live workshops are not all CGSociety has to offer. There is also their “CG Training On Demand” workshops, that cost much less, but are slightly dated. Once again, these are workshops where you want to take as much style and workflow from them than you do using the software. If you look at a few of them, take a look at what software they are using for the workshop, and then find out when that software was released. That will give you an idea of how old the workshop is. At the same time, you can learn a lot from professionals teaching it, and take from their workflow. At the same time, you still have instructor interaction for critiques and such, so the money spent on that alone pays for itself. If it looks like something you can learn from, by all means take it on!
Well, there you go! Lots and lots of resources to get you to a professional level in 2D and 3D. I’ll try to add more and more to list as I find other places, but seriously, all of these sites have given me everything to work out a path to professionalism in Concept Art/Illustration, 3D Photo Realistic Rendering, and 3D Game Design. Every one of the sites that have a link I highly recommend. The others can choke on their hemorrhoids.
I know I dwindled off with the game development, but to be honest, that’s a whole other area that leaves the CG world all together when you get to a certain point. I would think between CGCookie and 3DMotive, and the tutorials offered by each game engine, you would have more than enough resources to allow you to make a game of any kind.