Concept art I did early in my schooling:
I just graduated from BYU (Animation Major), and it’s a relief to be done. I'm going to miss a lot about school, though. Originally I wasn’t planning to go to college: at the time I had a six-year career in the game industry, and I didn’t see any clear advantage between myself and other graduated artists. However, after I married, my wife convinced me that I’d need to set the example for our kids about the importance of college. Almost six painful (but rewarding) years later, I see four ways that my attitude was wrong about the benefits of education for an artist:
First, I assumed that college didn’t really help artists because I saw that some graduates were still weak artists. Now I realize that artists at varying talent levels go to school, and they almost universally improve a lot—and what I thought were so-so artists were often vastly improved. And the best artists I knew would outdo themselves every semester. I’ve known some very good artists that skipped college because of their talent or success, and now I wish I could show them how school could make them even better. The talented artists I know who also embraced learning were once good artists, but now they’re superstars---and they’ll improve as long as they have that humble attitude.
Second, BECAUSE I was uneducated, I often couldn’t distinguish between a good and a bad artist. Many artists that I once thought were “sub-par,” I realize now were actually quite good, but my narrow, teenage-comic-book mentality couldn’t move past any lack of chiseled biceps in their art. My school experience helped me appreciate that the appeal of great art requires much more than superhero anatomy and dynamic poses.
Third, I didn’t realize an important principle of education: you get out what you put in. The students I know who gained very little from school were either too lazy to do the work that would teach them, or too arrogant to learn from the work they were doing. I treated some classes like that and I’ve forgotten those subjects. But for the most part I worked really hard in school and I can see the rewards.
Fourth (and finally), I once thought that most college classes would be a waste of time for an artist. I never wanted to take a math, English, or history course again after high school, and I had only mild interest in the sciences and other subjects. What I’ve realized now is that what I learned in physics, history, geology, etc., has been more useful to me in my job as a concept artist than almost any art class I’ve taken. Even my math and English classes, which I don’t use much in art, have become useful in the managerial positions I’ve held. (I even used calculus once, believe it or not). The variety of subjects is the part of school that I’m going to miss the most.
All that said, I know that college isn’t an option for some artists, but that doesn’t necessarily have to hold anyone back. If circumstances keep you from a formal education, there’s no reason why you can’t work on developing yourself anyway. The nicest (and most painful) thing about college is that it forces you to take classes and do assignments that you wouldn’t have chosen on your own. However, anyone will discipline themselves to do hard things if they want the outcome badly enough. I know that I’ll do my best to keep learning.
Same character revisited now:
This was a fun exercise, and sometime soon I'll render out the newer guy more so it's a better comparison.