This week's post takes a short detour from the three part series on 'designing your art education', but it's on my mind. The concept came from a recent conversation I had with Joe Pikop of SoMuchMonsters. He's a teacher at FuturePoly, a Seattle game art school. Regardless of their skill level, Joe forces his students out of their comfort zone - and I encourage you to follow his lead.
Avoiding the pull of favorites
We all have favorite genres, characters, and styles - and for the sake of this post let's pretend mine is Sailor Moon. It's tempting for me to draw nothing but sailor moon-related art, since it's my passion. If I were to take Joe Pikop's 3D modelling class, I'd be explicitly forbidden from pursuing this passion. His rationale is a bit unexpected. In short, I will improve my Sailor Moon modelling skills by modelling everything but sailor moon. Confused? I'll do my best to break it down in terms that apply not only to 3D modelling, but to art in general.
Art is problem solving. Every image we make tells a story of some sort - emphasizing some details at the expense of others. These design choices are informed by our experiences as an artist, and as a person. As you expand your horizons, your design choices are able to take on more nuance. Let's revisit my (theoretical) love for Sailor Moon. If all I ever watched was this show, my fan art would be limited in quality. I would only have the existing 'solutions' to draw from. My art would be nothing more than a re-mix of ideas from a very narrow source. Alternately, my ability to design characters and scenes from this Anime would be improved by studying classical sculpture. By analyzing paintings from the old masters. By strolling through the children's section at the my local library. The art world is massive. The wider your experience, the more interesting your art becomes. As my mental library expands, the design re-mix takes on new richness and depth. Of course, I'll eventually want to practice some Sailor Moon drawing.
Variety and experience
As you progress through your art education, keep variety in mind. I'm not discouraging specialization - but it should be reinforced with broad research horizons. It's impossible to predict how any given experience will influence your next dragon drawing. You can predict, however, that an artist surrounded exclusively by dragon imagery won't surprise anyone with their creations. Exciting solutions come from remixing unexpected source materials. As Joe would say, "If you like a thing, try drawing everything but that thing".