Recently I’ve been digging into the 3D software “Blender”, and it’s been tons of fun. Even though it’s seemingly unrelated to digital painting, the experience has recharged my creative batteries. You might not be interested in 3D software, but there’s probably some other rabbit hole you’ve been considering pursuing. Why not go down it for a bit?
Science and Art
The scientific community has two different types of research: fundamental and applied. You’re probably familiar with applied research - it makes headlines and turns into patents. Fundamental research, on the other hand, is often un-sexy and has no obvious commercial use. Without fundamental research there would be no breakthroughs like wireless internet or gene therapy. In preparing for your life as an artist, you’ve got the opportunity to balance these two approaches. On one hand there’s ‘fundamental studies’ which broaden your experience as a creative person. On the other there’s ‘applied studies’ which hone a specific skill, often pointing toward a specific goal. How will you balance the two?
In this analogy let’s think of fundamental studies with a broad definition. For me it might include 3D modeling, video editing, storytelling, and unusual input devices (see image right). You might have a different list entirely: history, interaction design, sailing, speaking french, or a million other pursuits. These are the interests that we study out of passion and curiosity, even though they don’t have obvious connections - or obvious commercial application. They are what round us out as people, and help us understand the world. They’re what we get psyched up about. But what if they overlap?
Experience has proven that I’m not particularly good at predicting the future. I attended art school to learn 3D animation, though wound up painting concept art for video games and teaching on Ctrl+Paint. In retrospect it’s possible to see a variety of smaller skills that overlapped making these two vocations possible, but none of it was planned at the time. In fact, much of what I’ve explicitly planned has not happened. All along the way, though, I’ve valued learning. If something excited me (like user interface design), I’d pursue it on my own time. Eventually these skills began to overlap and create unexpected career opportunities.
A lifelong pursuit of fundamental studies might be extremely fun, but would be hard to fashion into a paycheck. Laser focus on one goal might lead to achieving a specific career, but it wouldn’t leave you as a very well-rounded individual. Your challenge is to find the middle ground. How will you study?