Art Theory for 3D Artists?

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  04 April 2005
Folks, Art Theories have little to do with training tools and traditional art skills. There is a wealth of literature concerning art theories whether in psychology, philosophy, culture studies, etc.. This might be an interesting topic to you, but it is mildly related to the intended repository for 3D art.

However, if you are an artist with a keen interest in theory and how it applies to your art, then I am sure you have a library of your own by now.

Another mix-up in terminology is when we refer to intro level class in art as basics. In fact these classes provide the foundation knowledge of art in terms of aesthetics, perception, art evolution. The basics that are referred to might be related to technique, more precisely the "How to".
The sticky mentioned above is a good place to serve as a repository as such.

  04 April 2005
3d Art or computer generated 3d is roughly a decade old and it's a advancment of tools more than theory. However the heart of 3d CG is the science as far as I believe, any one who truely loves 3d will understand this. I'd also like to say that 2d CG is not the same as the 3d CG world.

3d GC is a broad area which includes traditional art theory and even computer science. I don't think the topic of 3d art theory is trying to take away from the thousands of years of Art history and theory, but whith the advancement of science things change. I think there should be a 3d art Theory now that computer have established themselfs of life changing devices that effect everybody life on all sorts of level. So saying you just need to know traditional art theory is to sell yourself short as a 3d artist. I think there are alot of traditional artist who may feel threatened by this concept but they shouldn't. People should understand that programing is now a new art form and traditional art doesn't cover that.

Last edited by tAstyBITs : 04 April 2005 at 06:11 PM.
  04 April 2005
The wierd thing for me is that after about 10 years of doing CG3d I don't think of light in a traditional art theory way. The term "highlights" or "rimlights" have been replaced with "specular" light. The term "local color" has been replaced with "diffuse color". 3d has taught me a lot about raytracing, global illumination, normals and angle of incident of the normal to the eye and how it effect a surface. You really need to understand how light behaves in the software and you have to understand the terminology of that science to be a 3d artist. You have to undetstand how render engines are set up to deal with specular, gi, raytraceing etc, to make things work in that medium. It's stange but I've learned more art theory from 3d software than I have from artists books.

If you love 3d then all this stuff might the coolist stuff in the world.
  04 April 2005
Well, I could agree on this. But, this is not what the original post had in mind.

In terms of Computer Graphics theories a.k.a. CG, there are some treasures out there if you are interested. The Computer Graphics revolution started 4 decades ago not 10 years ago, and the discourse on the future of this field pretty much adopted most of what we know today as CG. The distinction between two dimensional computer graphics and three dimensional is just a commercial distinction. There is no real boundary between both. Having said that, the majority of research in computer graphics were about the development of more efficient algorithms to calculate.

I would recommend visiting Jim Blinn's site (a pioneer in Computer Graphics) were he has some very interesting papers published on the topic. Here is an excerpt:
"As more and more becomes known about the imaging process, better simulations can be performed without brute force application of current techniques. The non-real time images of today will become the real time images of tomorrow." Realism in Computer Graphics 1979
  04 April 2005
I would agree with almost everything. I think these papers that I linked have linkes to there sources etc.

I don't see how you think there's no separation between 2d and 3d. I can say that the end result is 2d, but working in 3d is different than 2d. It would be like saying there's no seperation between drawing and sculpting.?

I think you can define Art Theory for 3d Artist as having it's roots defined by people like Jim Blinn. Maybe the post had something different in mind but I was thinking something else when I clicked on the thread. I think it's a interesting topic, "3d Art Theory".
  04 April 2005
Yeh, I'm not really concerned much if there is a theory that defines distinctly 3DCG as much as I am interested in the experimental part of it. The bulk of 3DCG out there is concerned about depicting reality simulating what a camera could do but with a tinge of fantasy, or vice versa.

Few artists and designers are actually experimenting with this medium, the rest are more into highly techno-temporal issues in CG i.e. skin absorbance of light, car shaders, and realistic motion and special effects. You don't need a theory for that stuff because it is ever changing with technology. In the near future you won't need to do a lot of manipulation and light studies to get the realistic effects, but what lasts is the quality and meaning of work, the innovation that pushes the envelope and provide an Avant Garde headway for the rest to inspire from. People like John Maeda, Hiroshi Ishii, and many others who are leading a real Avant Garde movement in 2D, 3D, and robotics.

Thanks for following up!

  04 April 2005
Ok all artists are artists.
Someone said 3D artists have catching up to do, I think there are a couple of reasons for this. 3D is infinately more work than 2D. 3D must use all aspects of 2D (which are hard enough) and much much more, add to deep 2D understanding, motion, 360 degree integrity, a story line, rigging oh on and on and on. You can diversify and make your own films or just specialise and make only textures for a living.

The second thing is that 3D has a building block appeal so many people produce stuff (alot of stuff) without having any background 2D knowledge and you can see it. It is a young technology and not many accomplished illustrators have stepped over to 3D yet.

Ok I feel that much 3D art misses 2D skill in general. There are always exceptions. The market is flooded with really great drawing and basic art principle books you will find hundreds in your local art store. Try resist running before you can walk. With so many great tools available thats hard to do. It will save you time and grief in the end though.
The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
  04 April 2005
Huge confusion here as to exactly what we mean by "Art Theory". I think when we set up this forum we were defining it as "Art School 101" or something like that. Not so much the philosophy behind it, or the science behind the new digital medium, or whatever.

Quote: I think there should be a 3d art Theory now that computer have established themselfs of life changing devices that effect everybody life on all sorts of level. So saying you just need to know traditional art theory is to sell yourself short as a 3d artist.

But who said that? "All you need to know is traditional art theory"... everyone knows it takes a lot of work to master 3d software.
According to my definition above there's no need for a specific "3d Art Theory". Only for art training, plus software training. The easy part is the second, that's why we're only talking about the first one here. It's like getting a pilot's certificate, or learning how to drive a big rig; almost anyone motivated enough can do it, it just takes a few weeks or months. The art part though... completely different story. I've been practising my art skills for over 40 years, and I still feel like a beginner.

Quote: People should understand that programing is now a new art form and traditional art doesn't cover that.

Debatable. I see it as a science, a discipline, a craft, and it can from time to time create or result in art; programmers can be artists, and artists can be programmers, but programming itself can't be an "art form" - that would make ALL programmers artists...

However that may be - traditional art training does indeed cover it. Such training is only concerned with the result of the program, not the program. This result would still have to communicate something to an audience; and doing that well is what art training is all about.

Last edited by Stahlberg : 04 April 2005 at 03:06 AM.
  04 April 2005
tAsty BITs - You're talking about the tech, not the art. Rendering algorithms, materials, and all the tech stuff will not give you a worthwhile piece of art. What will, is understanding traditional art theories. All that tech will only give you tools you can use, but what good are those tools if you don't know what to do with them? It's like the big budget Holywood garbage we see too often--all that amazing tech, but no heart, no soul, no creativity, and no integrity.

You can know your specular and sub-surface scattering and GI and HDRI and all that jazz, but what good are they if you have no understanding of composition, color theory, values, and the aesthetic principles of what makes an engaging image? What good are they if you have nothing to say as a creative person--no emotions to express, no stories to tell, and no personal statements to make? It'll be like someone who knows how to program all these cool sounds with synthesizers and samplers, but have no idea how to actually compose a beautiful piece of music that moves the listener with those sounds.

Last edited by Lunatique : 04 April 2005 at 03:27 AM.
  04 April 2005
Art is what you make with your own hands,
that is more than functional. Something that pleases
the eye, and does something, even if it just covers a
bare spot on the wall, or the computer screen.
Art is something you do, to please someone special,
or a group, or just your self.
Art can be provacative, or art can be just like everybody elses
idea of a nice thing.
Art is that concrete driveway, you just poured and finished.
Art is the stack of 100,000 sheets of 4 color, 2 sided, 4-up brouchures ready for the bindery.
It's the restoration/refinishing of a fine piece of furniture.
It's that scripting I did to create a scrollbar in swishmax,
and the 3d diddies in swishmax, I've been doing over the years.
The only thing I know about art, is what my 103 year old Grandmother taught me.
I'm 45 years old, and just starting to get back to school, and I am learning that Grandma
was pretty right on the money, bless her heart!
  04 April 2005
  • Good points! Theoretical studies are left to academics and scholars not artists, unless she/he chooses to do so.
  • It is good though that the new generation of artists have a little taste of it. What I mean by that, the foundation of art knowledge and where it came from.
On a slightly off topic, my art is part of my existence, not a pro not a hobbyist. It is part of my life just like design, architecture, human behaviour, music, guitar, my offsprings, etc..My theoretical background which I acquired since the age of 12 and for 26 years already have helped me tremendously adjusting myself to this crazy thing they call "art".

If you choose to go further, Why not?

"Little knowledge is a dangrous thing." Alexander Pope
  04 April 2005
Originally Posted by Lunatique: The problem is, what 3D artist needs to catch up with ARE traditional art knowledge. There is no shortcut, or alternatives. All art theories are "traditional."

Along with those concepts I also try to find ways to let the technology of 3d add it's own imprint on my work. In 3d you have two forces at work, first those that are driven by our understanding of art concepts and our goals.

Then you have the force of your 3d software's behavior and imitation of what it is designed to render as light or as water, etc. Often these forces are very driven by science. Much of your work as a 3d artist is tweaking this science to fit your artistic goals. At times you can let the science of 3d software work for you and see what it has to offer as a solution to getting the look that you want.

But at no time can we let this process take over. I see many new 3d artist just using sky lighting and base materials and praising the rendering engine for the results. This is not a good habit to have as a 3d artist.

Even with all of these powerful features at our disposal we have to treat 3d like one big robotic paintbrush.

3d artist are often of a different mind than other more traditional artist. You have more creative production power. Much of our reasoning on matters of light and materials is more on the realism side than most artist who work with ink and paint to create worlds.

Concepts in 3d of perspective, object shapes, textures and light are controlled by our working environment in which we add our ideas. Modern visual technology methods from film and photo production and rapid object manufacturing processes can also be applied our everyday workflow. Logic is our carving tool, paintbrush, dance step and we learn to live and work with it.

We can use classic painting methods to decorate our worlds, or a mix of these techniques along with photo editing and video editing. We are what art is to become in the future and at the same time what it has always been about in the past. 3d software was designed to do another modern thing, aid artist in manufacturing their art. So much is often expected of 3d artist and much more is often delivered.

3d IS modern day art at it's highest level. So lets make it, but like any good machine, lets not break it.

Have fun!
Modeling 3d objects on a 3d Beryl desktop. It's the 21st century, forreal.

Last edited by JA-forreal : 04 April 2005 at 04:56 AM.
  04 April 2005
I guess in this forum we better try avoid the what is art question. Though interesting in itself it tends to turn to mud and the original post gets forgotten.
The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
  04 April 2005
Well, for practical purposes since this is called the "ART" discussion forum, we may have to define it, even if just roughly, temporarily, and locally. So, how about "created, on purpose, by someone, for the purpose of communicating something to someone"? Because here, in this forum, we're not concerned with accidental or found art, like a concrete highway; we're not concerned with art that is never shown to anyone else... see what I mean? Just trying to be pragmatic.

And btw, I do agree that 3d has taught me a lot about light, materials, anatomy and shapes in general. A lot, and I would probably never have learned these things without 3d. Still, as Lunatique said, this knowledge would have been useless without my prior art training.
  04 April 2005
Actually a 3d designer can approach 3d software as an engineer of sorts and not as an artist. The way a geneticist approaches creating new flower breeds or an architect approaches creating living structures. 3d software performs well as a tool for producing visually simulated functional and functionally artistic media.

3d art is based on planned logical art creation production and project asset management. You have to plan out many parts of your work and understand how your software technology can help you to complete the task. So the use concept drawings and project data gathering are not uncommon.

There are other forms of computer media production such as web development in which the tech is planned out first and then a visual design is wrapped around the tech. Art design promotes the function of the tech.

In the case of a cg film making, art may work as the concept drawing to setup a plan for the production shots, filming, etc and then the technical aspects of film making are structured. Then you're back to applying the art to the film making process.

In 3d game design the tech often supercedes the art like web design in order to create a framework of logical interactive environments for the artwork. This software tech for one 3d art concept can be reused with other art concepts to drive many different types of 3d environments and make use of entirely different designed 3d art assets. The same is true with the software A.I. tech that is used in 3d films and for 3d TV ad production.

I think that more traditional styles of "art" were presented by the TV, film and game industries first and these great concepts spread to every level of 3d design in media. These are great concepts but are not the rule for 3d art as they are not practical for every 3d art function.

I imagine some current art schools attempt to supply a more traditional "artistic" method to teaching 3d art that is not so techincal. But most of the technology behind 3d art has nothing to do with traditional art theory and everything to do with fast, accurate scientific image replication production for real world industrial strength visualization tasks.

When you watch a film a lot of logical, non artistic technical stuff is at work in the set structures, lighting, camera work, etc. That's why most studios are more appt to use 3d for these purposes for stuff like effects and mates, cg stunts, etc. and less likely for cg character work. 3d performs better as a production tool for this kind of work, but things like complex character 3d animation still has many production issues that keep it out of some cg productions. But things are changing now and artistic 3d animation is getting easier for most traditional artist and producers to use in their productions. So we are seeing more 3d character animation used in films. But I feel that the 3d game industry folks have a real good foothold in 3d art so their production concepts can looked to by all 3d artist as guides.

I think some of the traditionally art trained 3d cg art school folks try to downplay the 3d cg software "machine" concept. Some new artists even wince at the thought of replication of 3d cg assets and scripting. You just can't. It's the way that 3d software is designed to work to replicate cg art for speedy perspective change shots and environment building that make a brush irrelevant for this kind of motion creation work. That's why we have 3d software like Zbrush that works to demystify the 3d cg process for more traditionally minded less technical non-production engineer minded artist. But to master 3d art you have to get technical at some point if only for production management purposes

We have enterprise level 3d apps like XSI and Maya that are designs for large companies housing 3d artist. And we have mid size company in single pro 3d apps like 3d Max , Cinema 4d and Lightwave. Then we have opensource 3d apps like Blender and renderers for anything else we can come up with as 3d artist and developers.

3d has so many complex operations that 3d artist can specialize in just one. For modelers Zbrush is a great time saver over the machine driven approach to organic 3d modeling and Modo and Wings3d are some other tools we use for industrial strength 3d production. 3d animation adds another element to 3d that is new but is still based on traditional concepts. 3d artists have to be open to computer science principles and learning complex software features because it drives 3d development the fastest.

When you work with 3d cg remember that most of the features are designed to make your life as a 3d production artist easier. Learn to build objects in parts using duplication and merging techniques. Learn to script simple functions for animation. Don't stick to easy methods that are slow and unproductive. Learn advanced modeling concepts like edge looping theory. Learn advanced UV texturing methods like LSCM mapping. Use as many of the automatic features that your software has in performing everyday task. Don't be left behind, read up on new production methods and features and apply them to your workflow.

Even if you are doing projects for yourself the key is not to spend more time on a project than you have to. Remember that any of your old pieces and parts from other older projects can be merged and reshaped onto new projects. The power behind 3d is understanding how to produce art using the best features of the machinery of your 3d software.

3d software's goal is to help designers process their designs into reality as fast as possible on a computer. So shortcuts are the order of the day and anything goes.

Art is the heart of our 3d cg tin man. So respect art and learn how to automate the process of creating great art with 3d cg.

Have fun!
Modeling 3d objects on a 3d Beryl desktop. It's the 21st century, forreal.

Last edited by JA-forreal : 04 April 2005 at 07:43 AM.
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