10 Tips to help you become a better artist

10 Tips to help you become a better artist

WacomI see it readily on a daily basis, many artists striving to improve their art in their software of choice; it is a never ending crusade which all of us as artists endure. Although I’m aware that they’re many schools of thought on this subject, I hope these tips will help guide you along the way as they have done for me over the years.

1. Observation

One of the biggest components to becoming a solid artist is the power of observation. It is key because everything you do as an artist requires you pay full attention to details surrounding the subject you’re working on. As any great actor researches his role to nail his performance, the same rules hold true for you as an artist. Research and observe what you’re creating and be sure to take the time needed to make certain that all your eggs are accounted for before moving unto the next task. Being observant trains your mind and eyes to better evaluate your work and others. And remember, reference IS your friend.

2. Don’t get discouraged

The easiest trap for many young artists to fall into is to quickly get discouraged when starting a project. Most times while working on an asset it won’t look like anything you envisioned or planned at the very beginning, the true test as an artist is to keep molding and refining your subject until it represents what you want. Overtime you will hone your skills until it becomes second nature. Keep at it.

3. Small details count

But less is more, yes small details add depth and complexity to your work, but don’t become obsessed with that buckle and screw on your latest character’s armor if in the end your fine craftsmanship will be hidden by a shield or clothing for the entire time the character is on screen. Learn the delicate balancing act of aesthetics and speed. You want to spend the most time on the details that matter, not the ones that will be hidden from view. In art, shortcuts are permitted as long as the final result is aesthetically pleasing, in real life not having that screw or buckle could very well lead to a new suit for the emperor ;)

4. Draw, Draw, Draw

Drawing is an essential part of your craft, yes even as a 3D artist! It is the foundation to everything you do. Although it’s not a requirement, becoming a great 3D artist is better formed from paper and pencil OR wacom and tablet for you new age techies.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

Possibly no other piece of advice has been passed down through the ages that makes more sense than this. If you want to become good if not great at something, you have to do it over and over and over again. Practice your craft every chance you get, it doesn’t have to be something epic each time, but quick doodles keeps you in rhythm and focused. Without practice nothing on this list matters.

6. Criticism is your friend

Your work will be eventually subjected to scrutiny, and there’s nothing you can do about it other than to crawl into a hole and nurse your thumb, or get back up and try again. Not everyone will be correct and not all criticisms will be genuine, but always be opened to criticism and never let it deter you from your goals, whether they’re good or bad.

7. Be courteous, help others

We all had to start from somewhere on this lengthy ladder, but none of us started on the top, everyone can share stories of their trials and tribulations, but only those that helped others less experienced than themselves have reached high into the stratosphere of this industry. Helping others less experienced than yourself, not only fills your karma meter, but keeps you grounded from where you came from.

8. Draw from life

Keep in mind 3D or more so art in general is basically an extension of our reality in some shape or form, everything that has been done in 3D has some connection to our reality in some way. There’s no bigger resource out there that can help you as much as reality. Be it a 10 foot tall metal munching robot or an intergalactic universe, it all connects to reality, so learn from it with number 1 and a fancy digi-cam.

9. Always strive to be better

Yes this goes without saying, but it amazes me how many artists out there “settle” because it’s convenient or they can’t bother to change. The only way to grow as an artist is to always strive to accomplish something you couldn’t before, it’s only when you do this that you realize how for you’ve come and how much further you have to go. Don’t make the mistake of staying stagnant; it’s not the way of a true 3D artist.

10. Know when enough is enough

Sitting in front of a humming box all day certainly isn’t great for your mind and body. Know when to say enough is enough and separate yourself from the grinding axe and save it for the next day. No further benefit can come from physical or mental exhaustion. Go biking, fishing, maybe fly a kite, go on a date or uh-hum dates ;) or if you have any, play with your kids in the backyard. You’ll be amazed at how it revitalizes your passion and mind for an industry that seemingly never sleeps. Now when it comes to crunch time, that’s another topic on its own.

There you have it, obviously they’re many more tips other experienced artists can share that helped them through their careers, but the ones listed here have helped me the most throughout my time in the industry.

If you have other tips you would like to add or share, please don’t hesitate.

Tito A. Belgrave

About the Author

Tito A. Belgrave is currently employed as a Character Artist at Ubisoft Toronto. He's also an avid freelance game journalist.