Becoming a 3d artist puts you on the road of constantly feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, wanting to quit and thinking you will never become a great 3d artist.
You will constantly ask yourself "Is this really for me? Will I ever actually learn this? Will I ever be good enough to create the work I see others create?"
The path for 3d artist is paved with experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows. More projects will be incomplete than the ones you do complete.
So, how do you get over the feeling of overwhelm and frustration when learning and becoming a 3d artist?
First thing you have to realize that these feelings are inevitable and never go away. They only get muted for a period of time only to resurface later at another project. All great 3d artists learn how to manage this inner dialogue while continuing to do their work. The more experienced you become, the better you'll learn how to deal with these thoughts.
The key is NOT trying to remove these feelings but feel them and continue to do the work regardless.
Remember, becoming and being a 3d artist is a process. A journey that starts now and never ends. You never stop learning 3d art.
Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated is simply a way the mind telling you, you don't know something. The way to counter that is to learn and improve where you are lacking. That is it. It is as simple as that. You just need more knowledge in that area of production.
I already gave you the first mental strategy that will help you on the 3d artist journey.
Let's get down to more actionable steps and mental strategies for dealing with these thoughts and continue to work on becoming the best 3d artist you can be.
It's impossible to learn all of 3d art.
There is modeling, UVing, lighting, rigging, animation, VFX, texturing, UI, programming. Then there is focus on environments, weapons, props and characters. Then there are different styles such as realistic, stylized, low-poly and more.
Too much, too soon, all at the same time. No wonder you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. You will never learn it all.
Under no circumstances should you try to do all of it as you learn 3d art. Focus only on one thing.
Narrow down your focus.
Pick one aspect of 3d and become proficient at it.
For example, pick modeling and UVing environments and props then go all in on just that.
I love environment art and hard-surface modeling. This is what I focused on and I still keep that as my primary focus. I could now do characters, rigging and animation but only because I've built up a strong foundation in environment design and hard-surface modeling. But even then I keep true to what I am good at and what I love to do.
So narrow down your focus. Pick one aspect of production you want to do then pour your heart and soul into it.
As you narrow down your focus, you should also limit project scope. Large open-world environments are enticing to work on but you realize the amount of work you've created for yourself. Then overwhelm sets in as you stop making progress.
Instead, focus on breaking large projects into smaller more manageable projects. Better yet, setup smaller projects to work on.
Smaller projects will allow you start and finish. You'll be able to deal with project's problems and challenges as they come up. Overwhelm will disappear because you can see the finish line.
Instead of doing an entire environment, do a small section of it. Instead of doing a dozen of props, do one single prop. Or only focus on lighting. There are many ways to start small projects and finish them.
Build confidence and momentum of finishing smaller projects then you can start on larger projects, on bigger environments.
The most common problem of frustration and overwhelm is unfinished work. Starting a dozen projects and never finishing them. Unfortunately this is just part of being a 3d artist. But you should try to finish as many projects as you can. Get through the entire project from start to end. Even if you don't like the end result. Finish the project.
What you will learn from 1 finished project is far more beneficial to you than 10 half-finished, abandoned projects.
This is why limiting your scope and working on smaller projects becomes important. You will finish what you start then move on to the next one.
Repetition and consistency are the keys to learning and creating 3d art.
Develop a habit of working every day. Even if it's just an hour. Projects only get done when you consistently show up and do the work. The more time you can put in, the faster it'll get done.
Sure you take a day or two off. Holidays, weekends etc, but overall you need to be working every single day. Overwhelm and frustration will be minimized when you can see yourself making progress.
When learning something new, find a tutorial series or a step-by-step course and follow along exactly, creating what is being shown. Don't deviate too much.
You will create exactly the same thing as the tutorial but that's the point.
Learn the steps, the processes and fix the problems as they appear. This will teach you more than if you try to use a tutorial but create a different object. You'll encounter things with your mesh or environment that you're not going to know how to solve.
So follow along, create exactly what is being shown in the tutorial then apply the lessons learned into your own project.
When I first started 3d modeling I would jump between 2-3 different modeling packages.
When I saw someone doing something cool in 3dsMax, I'd jump to 3dsMax. Then I'd see someone modeling cool environment in Maya and I'd jump back to Maya.
I wasted months doing this and never getting anywhere with either software.
It's only until I was forced to work with one piece of software, I began making significant progress. 15+ years later I am still using Maya. I stuck with it and now I am extremely fast and proficient with Maya.
Pick one software and stick with it. Don't change it. Become extremely fast and proficient with it before you decide to take on another.
Overwhelm shows back up when you realize how much work you have to do. But simplest way to keep overwhelm down is to not look at the entire project and how much more you have to do but only focus on the next immediate step.
All the steps in the project do not matter. Only the next 1-2 steps in the pipeline.
You don't have to model, UV, texture and render 10 props. You only have to model one. Then you only have to UV one. Then you only have to texture one. That's it.
Focus on the next immediate step you have to do.
When I create tutorial courses that span 65+ videos, I don't focus on how many videos I have to do. I only focus on the next video coming up.
Focus on the next immediate step in front of you.
Deadline is the due date you have to finish your project.
Nothing creates more overwhelm than a looming deadline but you are nowhere near being done.
This is why you need to start embracing deadlines and become comfortable creating under pressure.
There are two types of deadlines:
Self-imposed deadlines are harder to commit and finish by because you can always change it. But you must put the extra pressure on yourself to get projects done by specific time. If you don't then you run into a problem of never finishing your work.
Start with small projects and self-imposed deadlines. Put the pressure on yourself to finish by the due date.
Do self-imposed challenges where you create something in 1 hour or 1 day. Put the time pressure to create and deliver.
The more comfortable you can be under time pressure yet still create, the less overwhelm and frustration you'll feel. Because you know you'll get it done.
Common misconception being a 3d artist is that you should balance work and life.
If you want to learn quick and become great then you have to unbalance. This is completely opposite of what you've been told. As a beginner you do not have the luxury of balance.
3d software has a steep learning curve. You need to spend more time working, not less. This is why balance isn't what you want.
You can balance work/life later when you become more proficient and experienced creating 3d art but not before.
Balancing work/life will not make you a great 3d artist. Unbalance will. Great artist come not from balance but from obsession.
3d art falls into two categories: artistic and technical. You have to be learning and implementing both into your projects.
Artistic aspects deal with art fundamentals such as color, composition, lighting etc.
Technical aspects deal with the software itself such as working with materials, using modeling tools, scripting, topology, optimization etc. Essentially, making the software do what you want it to do.
Overwhelm comes up when you have to be both artistic and technical at the same time.
One important thing you need to realize is you don't need to go to art school to learn art fundamentals or get technical certification using Maya. You just need to start working on your project and begin building. Learn the artistic and technical aspects that the projects call for. Ask for critique and feedback from experienced artist regarding the art direction and technical issues you encounter, implement then move on to the next step.
Don't make learning the goal. Instead set a project to create something you want then start building. During the project you'll encounter artistic and technical problems that you have to overcome. This is when you learn new art techniques, color theory, lighting and deal with software issues as they come up.
Everything you do from tutorials you watch to things you learn - keep notes.
If you watch a tutorial, write down the steps and the processes. If you work on a project then keep notes what you did and how you did it.
I have word documents that span 300+ pages of notes. I didn't create these all at once but kept adding to them over the years. Now when I need to look something up, I reference back to the notes. This has been invaluable to me.
Also start keeping a daily screenshot of the work you do every day. Take a look at this One Daily Screenshot Technique for more.
Many times you will feel completely burned out and your mind fried.
You will hit a mental and physical limit. That's when you shut down for the day and show up tomorrow.
Do something else and completely disconnect. Have other hobbies in your life that aren't related to 3d.
For me it's working out, photography and going out with family and friends.
Your mental and physical limit will grow with time and experience. It is a muscle. But when you are burned out, walk away. Recharge. Comeback another day.
Learning new 3d software will create a lot of overwhelm and frustration. But it doesn't have to. You can focus on learning and using the software very quickly with the right tutorial course. This is why I created "Maya Foundation: Home Study Course". Years of experience and direct how-to knowledge has been packed into this course so you can start modeling and creating environments very quickly.
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