Art Theory for 3D Artists?

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Old 04 April 2005   #31
Wow some reallly cool comments. JA-forreal, you really layed it out.

It' makes me sad...I really like playing around with my copy of finalRender playing with the shaders, setting up some of the characters I've made to have more natural skin tones, to make the cloth interact with light in the right way. I've put alot a practice and thought into how computer generated light work and how it's different form real light, and when I discover one thing I always want to discover more. I think that's why I feel sad when I see that people think 3d software is just a tool when I can learn so much from it. For me if people start talking about Sub surface scattering, High Dynamic Range Images, phong, blinn, zauner, gi, raytraceing,I feel like it's Art Theory for 3d artist. Maybe there isn't enough ingredients in the 3d recipe to make a good brew of 3d art with out adding some traditional stuff in there, but I have a feeling these computer scientest are going to lay down some pretty cool ingredients in the years to come provided their muse's are good.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #32
Originally Posted by tAsty BITs: Wow some reallly cool comments. JA-forreal, you really layed it out.

It' makes me sad...I really like playing around with my copy of finalRender playing with the shaders, setting up some of the characters I've made to have more natural skin tones, to make the cloth interact with light in the right way. I've put alot a practice and thought into how computer generated light work and how it's different form real light, and when I discover one thing I always want to discover more. I think that's why I feel sad when I see that people think 3d software is just a tool when I can learn so much from it. For me if people start talking about Sub surface scattering, High Dynamic Range Images, phong, blinn, zauner, gi, raytraceing,I feel like it's Art Theory for 3d artist. Maybe there isn't enough ingredients in the 3d recipe to make a good brew of 3d art with out adding some traditional stuff in there, but I have a feeling these computer scientest are going to lay down some pretty cool ingredients in the years to come provided their muse's are good.


What you're giddy about is "how to operate the tool." And yes, learning how to operate a tool can be a lot of fun. I have tons of fun just trying to design cool sounds with synthesizers--tweaking the filters, envelops, oscillators, layers different sounds, making samples sound more life-like..etc. But, at the end of the day, all of that knowledge means nothing unless I can actually compose and arrange great music with it.

You can learn your rendering software inside out, know every little trick. Hell, you can learn to code your very own rendering algorithm. But then what? You've become a techie, not an artist. Unless you combine art knowledge with your software knowledge, you'll always be a software user, not an artist.

It's no secret that 3D art in general lacks compared to 2D. Just about every single Forum Leader, admin, manager..etc at cgtalk has commented on this. We've observed time and time again, from entries submitted to the Expose books, to the CG Choice galleries, to the CG Challenge entries..etc. EVERY SINGLE TIME, the 2D artists annihilate the 3D artists in terms of creativity and sheer artistic quality--no contest. Now, why do you think that is? It's because many 3D guys mistakenly think that learning how to use software = being an artist. Being able to model, texture, rig, skin, render..etc are software skills. You learn the right buttons to push, and any reasonably intelligent human would be able to render out a pretty decent image. But does that image have any true artistic quality beyond demonstrating that you know how to operate a 3D software package?

Let's say you managed to create a nice human character, with beautiful skin shader, natural looking deformation, skillfully rigged..etc(actually, some of these already require art skills--for example, painting textures, or knowing anatomy, or understanding how skin reflects light..etc). Now it's time to actually create a piece of "art" with that character. Whether it's going to be a piece of animation, or a still image--you're going to need that traditional art knowledge, because if you don't have it, your animation or your still image will have bad composition, bad lighting, unnatural looking poses, and that character, after all the effort you put into it, will be sterile, hollow, and souless.

Now, you can argue that the character itself IS a piece of art, because you put time and effort into it, and maybe you are right. But think about this example though--a violin maker, who made a beautiful violin, but can't play it or make music with it--would you consider that violin maker a composer or a musician?

See, this is not to belittle the technical side of CG. This is to help people understand that if they want to be "artists," they need to go beyond operating a software. Sure, you can spend your life making CG characters, but can't do anything WITH those characters. So, you just go on making one character after another after another, but never use these characters to tell stories, express emotions..etc? You see what I'm getting at here?

Last edited by Lunatique : 04 April 2005 at 10:07 AM.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #33
Originally Posted by Lunatique:
You can learn your rendering software inside out, know every little trick. Hell, you can learn to code your very own rendering algorithm. But then what? You've become a techie, not an artist. Unless you combine art knowledge with your software knowledge, you'll always be a software user, not an artist.



This works the other way to, you can know art theory inside and out but what does that matter if you can't make anything. Looking at 3d artist as just button pushers is kinda lame, and not a fair comparision, anybody can pick up camera take a picture and trace it with a pencil. It can be like that with any medium someone can make something in 2 seconds.

If I see something I like I don't care how it was made.


Art is very subjective. I'd imagine people come up with Theory's about art so they can improve how they do art. It's just I think Traditional art Theory is more for traditioal art. Most people edit their renders in photoshop cuz that can't get it to render right. This is because most people don't have a strong understanding 3d art Theory and quickly give up. And they give up because there arn't any Rembrandts of Rending to fall back on. I'd say it's to new for there to be much about 3d rendering theory.

Last edited by tAstyBITs : 04 April 2005 at 12:04 PM.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #34
Originally Posted by tAsty BITs: Looking at 3d artist as just button pushers is kinda lame, and not a fair comparision, anybody can pick up camera take a picture and trace it with a pencil.

No one is saying that 3d art is easy. On the contrary, we're saying that producing high quality 3d art is harder than many 3d artists think it is. But it's not just a question of knowing the tools and how to get them to do what you want. I know how to type, I can use Word, but I'm not a world class writer. I can make Word do exactly what I want, but I don't know enough about writing a story to write something that people would buy.

Just like learning the tools of Word doesn't teach me how to make characters that people care about, learning the tools of a 3d program won't teach anyone composition, color theory, etc.

Originally Posted by tAsty BITs: It's just I think Traditional art Theory is more for traditioal art. Most people edit their renders in photoshop cuz that can't get it to render right. This is because most people don't have a strong understanding 3d art Theory and quickly give up.

Sin City, both the comic and the movie, are visually stimulating because of Miller's understanding of art theory. In order to make his visions come to life, someone had to know how to use the tools to get the effect that Millers wanted. But the beauty didn't come from Miller's knowledge of how to use ink, or from the FX guy's knowledge of how to desaturate film. The visuals are so strong because of Miller's masterful use of composition, color theory, and all the other things that are art theory. He could make good art on a sidewalk with a bottle of ketchup not because he knows exactly how ketchup will dry in the sun, but because of art theory.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #35
Originally Posted by tAsty BITs: This works the other way to, you can know art theory inside and out but what does that matter if you can't make anything. Looking at 3d artist as just button pushers is kinda lame, and not a fair comparision, anybody can pick up camera take a picture and trace it with a pencil. It can be like that with any medium someone can make something in 2 seconds.

If I see something I like I don't care how it was made.


Art is very subjective. I'd imagine people come up with Theory's about art so they can improve how they do art. It's just I think Traditional art Theory is more for traditioal art. Most people edit their renders in photoshop cuz that can't get it to render right. This is because most people don't have a strong understanding 3d art Theory and quickly give up. And they give up because there arn't any Rembrandts of Rending to fall back on. I'd say it's to new for there to be much about 3d rendering theory.


Well, anyone who trace a photo and "make something in 2 seconds" won't be taken seriously by anyone anyway."

I didn't say "3D artists" are nothing but button pushers. What I was talking about are the guys who do 3D, but never bothered to educate themselves on traditional art knowledge. It's like people who tweak and fiddle with knobs on a synthesizer, but never bothered to learn to compose a piece of music, or play any piece of music with their hands--people like that I wouldn't call musicians either.

Seriously, I've seen your work. You're definitely someone who has taken time and studied traditional art theory. I don't know any professional concept artist who hasn't. Can you say that your knowledge and experience in drawing/painting/traditonal art had no impact in your 3D stuff? And what kind of 3d stuff would you be producing if you woke up tomorrow and all of your traditional art knowledge/skill/experience vanished, and you are only left with software operating knowledge in a 3D package? Do you think that would dramatically reduce the quality of your 3D stuff?
 
Old 04 April 2005   #36
An artist with good understanding of the foundation knowledge of art is not necessarily a good one, neither an artist without traditional education is necessarily a bad one. Creativity has something to do with education, but a lot to do with the human being her/him-self. So, whether you get the education or not, it is not going to take you a leap unless you are a natural born talent. You will improve a lot in your arts, but for the elite, it is a whole different criteria.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #37
Good Morning,

Yes I've got a very traditional understanding of drawning, it help me tremendously with 3d stuff. (But it's hard doing both professionally at least for me, no life, no kids etc.) I never really learned how to paint traditionally, I found teachers frustrating because everybody was so different with how they taught painting even art books which made it seem so simple but never really clicked with me. Computers layed things out is such a logical and basic way it made it easy for me to get it. Now as things go on I'm doing stuff with rendering shader set ups and I'm finding myself theorizing things like surfaces have different reflective quallity depending on their normal's angle etc so I can get things to look better, these things are very important to me as a 3d artist. HDRI stuff where the color white can have a light emmiting value or a brighter that white value. I constanly complain to my friends that render's need to have a camera apature and more realistict use of photometric light values so that they can set up day and night shot and have lens flares be more of a automatic procedure. I would call this stuff 3d art Theory.

I know how to draw because I do it all the time and every year I get better and better. But that is a skill just like knowing how to use a 3d package. The skill of rendering is something I use to make art with and I'm learning it's something to be mastered.

I don't really think I could say someone needs to learn art in a traditional way to be a good artist. If someone has talent then it will show. But the concept of 3d Art Theory is valid. It's just so new there's are no great masters of it to set a example of what it can do or look like. That's why I think you'd be selling yourself short as a 3d artist if you just study traditional art theory. Old skool theory was developed for old skool art, I believe tradition can hold back the development of 3d's potiental. Think about it, computers are so do dam powerful it's the closest thing to working with a medium that is like the minds eye. Just think if people forget that a paint brush dosen't have to be a paint brush then something unique to art might emerge, something that might make the history books.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #38
Here's a quarter that you might not have expected an opinion from, but I'm going to give it anyway. I too am an artist with ideas on what constitutes art theory.

But my medium is words. I'm a writer.

I think the funky thing about writing as an art is that it's the single easiest one to get into. All you need is a word processor. Or, getting more analog, a pencil and paper. And yet despite the fact that it has probably the lowest requirements of any art form and is the cheapest to get into, with basic "training" provided right from the earliest years of education, continuing on for a DECADE or more, people, en masse, are not producing award winning novels, plays or scripts by the truckload.

Why is that?

Quite simply it is because despite the fact that the tools and training are provided, that is simply not enough. They are essential, but they are only part of the complete equation. In order to make that jump from being able to write a memo to the office that is understood by all, and creating a story and a character that moves people and burns itself into their fondest memories, there needs to be a desire, a determination and a talent to take 26 letters and turn them into an experience that touches other people. A writer must go from having a grasp of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation to having an understanding of the putting those words into a STORY. A writer must know their Ps and Qs, but they must also understand narrative structure, characterization, dialogue, plotting and the rules of story telling. They must also know when to break those rules if it makes the story more engaging or effective.

In recent years, there have been programs, such as Final Draft that even incorporate basic story telling elements into the program and aid would be writers in seeing where the deficiencies in their writing may appear, but despite even that technical advance, simply buying Final Draft and dutifully following the suggestions to [INSERT ACTION SEQUENCE HERE] will not guarantee a script that gets greenlit and turned into a Hollywood summer blockbuster or Oscar Nominee. Orson Welles wrote Citizen Kane without ever having access to a program that gave him advantages such as cut n' paste or a delete key, or even telling him his story should now move into the climax and yet despite not having access to all that technical wizardry, he STILL wrote what is considered one of the seminal movies of cinematic history.

Now obviously what I am trying to say doesn't apply in fine technical details to Art Theory for visual artists, but the general principles are the same.

An artist, of any sort is an alchemist. Instead of taking raw matter and chemicals and transforming them from lead into gold, they take a technical understanding of their craft, fuse it with whatever muse drives their talent, and the resulting reaction is a work of art that touches, engages and moves the audience, whether it is a dance, a sculpture, a painting, a film, a play, a novel or yes, a computer generated work. There is no denying that there is a craft to art. You MUST know your fundamentals, you MUST know your tools, you MUST understand how to use the principles and equipment of your discipline. But ASIDE from that, you must also understand what WORKS with those tools, what DOESN'T work with those tools and how sometimes doing something deliberately stupid/foolish/insane can result in genius.

As many people know, CG is in its infancy. I only have a theoretical/layman's view of the art, but I see many parallels in CG to the history of traditional art. For the longest time, traditional art was also about realism. Michalangelo, Rembrandt, so many others were wrestling with the same issues that CG artists do now, "How do I create realistic skin tones?" "How do I create believable cloth?" and they worked, honed and polished their craft. They pushed their pigments and brushes as far as they would go and produced some magnificent work. However, with the invention of the photographic camera, the goal had been realized; now you could get "photo-real" simply by aiming a lens and pressing a button, it no longer took hours of work and thought to achieve the result, and consequently, artists moved into other areas. Modernism was born, expressionism, surrealism, abstractionism; artists found that in order to keep art alive in the wake of photography, it could not simply strive for realistic depictions and had to concentrate doing what the camera had great difficulty doing, capturing the inner workings of the human heart and condition.

For all anyone knows, there may come a time when the Poser program can crank out photo-real humans complete with rigs and animation routines that will allow ANYONE to simply use the existing models and easily create photo-real CG humans in animated sequences. If that should happen, then what will happen to the artists that have worked so hard to do it the hard way, from the ground up?

This is where the theory comes in. Art Theory is not the exclusive realm of 2D artists. Art Theory is understanding how to use the tools at hand to realize an inner vision in a way that surpasses the potential of the tools and expresses the potential of the PERSON USING THEM. An artist treads a difficult path of having to be part craftsman (Understanding the tools) and part dreamer (having the courage to express we think and feel) and creating a work that people respond to. You cannot do this with only technical expertise and you cannot do this by only day dreaming.

You must do BOTH. And you must do them WELL.

That's my extremely verbose two cents...

And sorry about commenting even though I'm not a CG artist, but I feel that all artists in all mediums wrestle with these issues...
 
Old 04 April 2005   #39
Quote: I think Traditional art Theory is more for traditioal art.

I really don't know what to answer to this, it's like saying "I think drawing skills are more for people who draw on real paper, not people who draw digitally on tablets".

Quote: Most people edit their renders in photoshop cuz that can't get it to render right. This is because most people don't have a strong understanding 3d art Theory and quickly give up.

I almost always edit mine in Photoshop, does that mean I have a weak understanding of what you're calling "3d art theory"?


Quote: Think about it, computers are so do dam powerful it's the closest thing to working with a medium that is like the minds eye.


LOL yea right. I thought so too... about 10 years ago. Then I gradually came to realise there is no more frustrating tool in the history of man than this. Promising so much, delivering so much less, wasting so much of my time...

Quote: Just think if people forget that a paint brush dosen't have to be a paint brush then something unique to art might emerge, something that might make the history books.


Our minds may have changed more than usual during this last century, but our brains are still essentially the same as when we were strolling across the savannah looking for food and the next watering hole. On average we're more complex, a little smarter, a little more enlightened, and more stressed out, but we can still only see with 2 eyes, in a certain narrow range of wavelength and brightness, with a certain level of detail. Only certain things interest us, and we're extremely picky. You can bring on holograms and smellovision, but we can still only process a certain amount and type of information per second.
And you have to be communicating something that people are interested in. And what is that? Same things as always. Other people, compelling characters in compelling situations or stories. This will never change, as long as we're still human.
People who dream of a new art movement fail to see that everything in the visual arts has already been tried, at least once. Well, except maybe satin pillows embroidered with eskimo hentai motifs (wouldn't surprise me if that's been done too though)... still. If an artwork doesn't communicate using rules researched during thousands of years of art history, it will fail. You think that's me being a closeminded old fool, you'll learn different one day... like I did.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #40
Originally Posted by Stahlberg: ...............



LOL yea right. I thought so too... about 10 years ago. Then I gradually came to realise there is no more frustrating tool in the history of man than this. Promising so much, delivering so much less, wasting so much of my time...





As a web developer I was so feed up with my experience at trying to create more complex web content using over the counter remedies that I sought out other alternatives. I was talking to a web developer on a forum and he told me that he had been where I was and that sometimes the only solution to a problem is handling it yourself. So I decided to learn how to create more dynamic web content on my own using php code based tech.

I find that many 3d developers have made use of many different types of production tech that although useful were designed for more mainstream compliance. I think that that's why so many facilities are starting use their own propriety software more and more.

Computers and software are just input and output data management consoles with storage, data recovery, and data processing capacity. We can accept what's available or try to find our own solution to a problem using software that is specifically designed for a given task or trying to come up with our own solutions of software or learning new methods of use of our current software. We can use scripts to extend our 3d software's features or search out scripts that will help us to do this.

You have been using 3d software for a while Steven and know just about every development option that is available. I know some 3d software developers that would love to chat with you for your experience alone in this area. 3d software is going through major changes from many different development angles. It needs to for the reasons that you have stated and for the reasons that many traditional artist mention all of the time. But time will only tell.

Fact: 3d software developers need direct input from their user base in order to make the right development decisions. Its not one size fits all anymore. User's perspectives are muddled by many software choices and no single software solution is perfect anymore. 3d artist are technical artist who can quickly adapt to anything that works. We are not easily satisfied with an "AOL" approach to a 3d workflow. We are not button pushers who just want a good render. We want to control the process and refine the process as easily as a traditional artist uses a paintbrush. But we want a "text mode" console to tweak the process. Hehe.

I think that we 3d artist work hard to do task like organic modeling, uv mapping, advanced material management, advanced lighting, particles, dynamics, asset management, character rigging and animation. These processes frustrate us because there should be a more artistic approach. We can't do anything about this ourselves so we moan and just use what life has dealt us.

When I see specialty 3d software apps like Zbrush, Wings3d and Modo I applaud them for their ingenuity and efforts to aid 3d artist workflows. And I hope that these types of software tools stay as they are and leave our main 3d workflow apps to develop better overall 3d workflow methods.

I know that companies will compete with these apps but I would prefer if 3d project development workflow software's work on more important things like more advanced material systems, better lighting systems, better camera systems, better animation systems, more powerful UV editing systems, more powerful dynamics systems, better import/export capabilities, better communication with external renders, better UI's, better asset management, etc. I think that rendering solutions like Finalrender, Renderman and many opensource solutions will offer us specialized rendering options that can never be matched by our main 3d workflow apps. Rendering software development is a great task in its own right.

3d artist often worry about these matters more than most other digital artist I think because we are concerned about getting better overall 3d workflow development tools and sleeping at night.

It looks like 3d software developments are looking at things in ways of specialization, workflow enhancement and integration now more than ever so things look good. I hope that they keep it up. It looks like we need a CG media development OS that will work with all of our chosen 3d development apps better also. Wouldn't it be cool if one of our basic tabbed menu program options at startup was a button to connect to our render farm?



"The road is long……..."



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 07:38 PM.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #41
Smile

Originally Posted by tAsty BITs: Wow some reallly cool comments. JA-forreal, you really layed it out.

..........


Thanks! I was just trying to bring out some of the often overlooked processes that are behind this 3d stuff. Once you understand 3d arts working concepts you can work at it a lot better.
__________________
Modeling 3d objects on a 3d Beryl desktop. It's the 21st century, forreal.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #42
Now we need some "dreamers", animators, modelers, texture pros, lighting folks, render farmers, etc. to lay down their theories on 3d artistic ideals and workflow methods. They can help us see how imagination, art and design development comes to play when converting ideas into art with the 3d production machine. Some of us became 3d artist after we messed a bit with 3d software so our perspectives are bound to be different from artists who have gone to CG school to learn 3d art.
__________________
Modeling 3d objects on a 3d Beryl desktop. It's the 21st century, forreal.
 
Old 04 April 2005   #43
Are we on the verge of a theory to unveil here?

Postscript: I am so impressed by your different views on the matter, and I think it is a very healthy discussion as long as you don't become dogmatic about your world view.

Keep it up!
 
Old 04 April 2005   #44
Here is a personal story of how I got into 3D, feel free to skip:

In 1987, 3rd year Architecture-undergrad, I saw this mesmerizing 3D wireframe on the cover of L'Architecture D'Aujourdhui. I didn't have access to CAD program then, but I decided to imitate the effect. Pencil of Canson paper was all I needed. Next day at school, the work is on the wall, and I had professors telling me that : You have cheated! you can't use a computer to draw!!
I loved that moment, as it gave me great momentum and determination to learn 3D and teach it to the in-between generation. 10 years later, I am professing to a class of post grads while me being the yougest among them.

The point here, I could still be a 3D artist, well I refuse this title as I am a designer, but I don't use traditional art so called theories. These theories which I learned in my first year are there as a guideline to understand the generality in art. There is more than traditional theories into this type of work.

So, yes, Now I can make a distinction between a general art theory, and a special one, but not one that is focused solely on techniques, rather on ideas and meaning combined with craftsmanship.

best,
ashakarc
 
Old 04 April 2005   #45
Quote: I don't use traditional art so called theories. These theories which I learned in my first year are there as a guideline to understand the generality in art. There is more than traditional theories into this type of work.


I think we're talking past each other. There's a misunderstanding about definitions and terms. The title of the thread is "An introduction to art theory for the 3d artist". This is a misnomer, since in the first post we find that what he was really looking for was simply links or books etc to help him become a better 3d artist - not strictly "theories" per se. Anyway, we can't seem to agree what either "art" or "art theory" is. (It doesn't help that our sticky thread with links for training yourself in the traditional art basics is also called "Art Theory Links".)

Can we please just forget about the word "theory" in this context? There is nothing of more PRACTICAL use and REAL value to the 3d artist than those links I mentioned. They are selected from the best of the best - please check them, go through them, carefully, read them, before you guys post any more about whether it's important or not to learn this stuff.

Last edited by Stahlberg : 04 April 2005 at 07:29 AM.
 
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