School or Self taught?

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  11 November 2012
School or Self taught?

Hello. I need some help deciding if being self-taught is better for me than going to an art school.
I know of 2 art schools that are reported to be very good, but also very expensive. The Gnomon School of Visual Effects, and the Vancouver Film School. The 2 year program at Gnomon is $66,075. And the 3D animation & visual effects at VFS is $53,250. Are they worth it? Or should I be self taught? Here is some work that I have done over the past year with the experience of a bit of thegnomonworkshop and digital tutors training.
I am 16 and have a little over a of year experience in maya and 5 months in zbrush. Should I get a job and save for school? Or spend the next few years doing CGWorkshops and Training? Any advice would be appreciated
  11 November 2012
It's a pretty personal decision though very good that you are considering it so early. There is no right or wrong approach as if your work is exceptional it will speak for itself regardless of other school credentials. I would suggest picking 4-5 ideal jobs you would want in the future and look at reels/artists work for that studio. That is the level you want to shoot for in quality, then figure out if you can have the personal drive and time management to teach yourself or if you would be better off in a structured educational program.

My personal approach was working to pay for school before going full time, I ended up doing both with school part time to knock out generic credits and teaching myself techniques in free time. The surprise for me was having small job offers and projects pop up here and there already just from networking before I had been to a formal school.
  11 November 2012
I don't think formal schooling is worth it unless you are studying a hard science.
  11 November 2012
Thank You for the replies That was quick. I'll do some research on artist's and positions i'm looking for. Is it smart to set the goal high? like a position at Weta or ILM? Or on artist's like Sze Jones, Aaron Sims, and Scott Spencer? Or look into lower pay freelancers?
  11 November 2012
I know there's a lot of pro's here that work with the big boys, but I'll say that I've found fulfillment and opportunity working at mid-sized firms that do more regional work than national, and that I perceive that I have A) a lot of flexibility in my personal studies and how this relates to my career and B) a lot of exposure to the whole process, as a result.
  11 November 2012
Quote: There is no right or wrong approach as if your work is exceptional it will speak for itself regardless of other school credentials

i kind of agree wit this. in art education, you can only make mistakes and learn from it, if you learn art like general knowledge and have good knowledge it in and can apply it to your art, you can rellly be unique

hm about the choice either gnomon or vfs it's hard to tell, I dunno anyone that gone there before, wish I can help you there, i only studied overseas at others countries and sometimes I think the learning culture is different hehe

btw your models are pretty good
  11 November 2012

I think you have to first define who you are. OK at 16, perhaps that is asking a bit much. But this is about who you feel you are as an artist. What your aspirations are and so forth. This will change over time. But there is likely a core set of ideals you have already that you try to follow. Set your own standards as high as you want. Higher than you think you can realistically achieve. Set them high and work hard to achieve that. Expect that you'll likely come in below that. But the higher you aim the higher you'll go.

This is the age to define who you are before you wake up at 30 and realize you allowed the world to define that for you and you are in a job you hate. 15 years will rush by you.

First decide what makes you get up in the morning and sit at the computer all day. What drives your passion and follow that all the way.

Only choose a school - or any line of study for that matter - by how it aligns with what you are passionate about.

A school is only as good as its instructors. They should be there to guide you into becoming more of who you are, not molding you into a workforce mold. Be original.

Follow your dreams. And select a school based on the instructors not on the reputation. (meet them first and talk with them)

Your work and your vision are your best reputation.

Seek out a study on your own if that best allows you to be yourself. It is probably the best way. But in the end only you can make that choice if you stay true to your goals.

You'll be alright.
  11 November 2012
Thanks for the advice! I will research into more schools instructors and see what fits my personal preference.
  11 November 2012
I wish I had been halfway mature at 16. Congratulations on starting so early. If you keep at it you will do great things I'm sure. I am 22 and just started practicing traditional/3d art a bit over a year ago.

One piece of advice I can give you is be sure to spend some time practicing your traditional skills. Drawing will really teach you a lot. I prefer to draw from life as I find it more interesting and a lot more challenging.

I'm currently getting my BFA and was planning on applying to some VFX schools. I sent a sample portfolio to Gnomon but like you as also wonder if it is worth it.

Your work looks really good. Keep at it and good luck to us all.
  11 November 2012
Originally Posted by Ephisus: I don't think formal schooling is worth it unless you are studying a hard science.

I think you have to balance education vs the life experience, they're two very different things.

What I studied in school is somewhat but not completely applicable to what I do today (my degree is in architecture), but the experiences and lessons I gained from going to college were invaluable in shaping who I am now as a person.
figdigital | @figdigital
  11 November 2012
I think there are two main areas to work on. The first, already mentioned, is traditional art. But not to mean you have to dive into traditional tools like paint and canvas or even pencil. For me, I grew up on that stuff, so it is an intuitive choice. But the reason for doing this is not about the medium. It is about developing a good artistic sensibility, completely apart from 3D graphics. This is not to mean it also needs to be restricted to a 2D medium. Sculpting for instance is a good skill to have and this can be developed in a computer or in the real world.

The second is developing a technical tool set in 3D software. If you are looking to integrate into the workplace the choices are obvious. Just scour the want ads.

Neither of these things require attending an institution. Not even obtaining free educational versions of Autodesk products. Community colleges teach art classes. They are local, inexpensive and the teachers can be good at what they do. It is very easy to audit such a place, simply go in and introduce yourself and find a class and sit in. See what you think.

The library is also a free source for lots of things not to mention a good education of the classics. If you live near a large city then you are likely have access to the main library. In a good main library you can find books that go back to classic periods of architecture, written by the masters who figured this stuff out, and translated into English. Just as one example.

Finding a local mentor is also another option. Someone who can simply guide you to what it is you should be studying. And along these lines, individual instruction by tutors in art.

Then of course there is the internet and the many online resources for training.

Assuming you have your traditional skills in order, the other most important thing is staying abreast of the latest software and changes in the industry. This does not require going to school. In fact the from the day you walk in to the day you graduate the industry will have moved ahead drastically.

That said, there are a core set of tools and concepts to master. Modeling rigging, texturing lighting and so on. None of these things require going to school.

But all of these things are constantly improved upon with new techniques and software continually. The best place to find out about these advancements is on the internet or in the workplace.

There is nothing stopping you from being fully employed by the time you are 18 and making money rather than going deeply into debt for the next 2-4 years. And there is nothing stopping you from continuing to improve your skills all along to advance to better positions and/or places of employment as you go.

The lessons you learn - in my opinion - from working will far exceed any experience you'll get in school.

All you need to get working is a good reel that shows your skill set and a command of the software.

And all that is required to achieve this, is first setting a target of what it is you want to accomplish and then moving ahead with your plan until you get the elements in the reel you need. How you go about that is secondary.

All that said, there are some schools such as the DAVE school which put you into a production-type environment which can be quite helpful I think to get a real working idea of what it is like to work in a studio with other artists. That alone is probably the best reason to attend a school. The experience of interacting with other artists on a group level. That can be invaluable.

Last edited by cineartist : 11 November 2012 at 01:04 AM.
  11 November 2012
These days I would go to a dirt cheap college that has a good arts faculty (nothing to do with computer graphics at all). I would make sure they gave life drawing classes and I would study trad art. With a cheap school you can spend time studying instead of working for low wages to try and stave off debt. Also expensive schools are so highly priced you may never work off the fees.

Free software, free online tutorials and paid workshops will give you all the tech stuff you will ever need and are also extreeeeemly low priced. You can get an amazing workshop here by someone who is a top pro for around 500 bucks or something laughable.

I would enjoy being 16 if I were you! Damn, beer and ladies,... or whatever is your thing
When you are 18 or 20 travel the world, scamper about in the north pole, swim in the Nile, dance on a bar in Scotland, I did, don't miss that. Life is a blast.

The terminal velocity of individual particles is directly related to pink rabbits on a bank holiday.
Characters, Games, Toys
  11 November 2012
Honestly, I think most people should be trained if it's proper. Getting into the industry is NOT like it was ten years ago. The industry has exploded in popularity and you'll need to be pretty exceptional, as well as likable in a team environment to have a chance. Frankly, after answering these questions and the like for two years, I find most people simply don't work on 3D often enough on their own when the goal is 'getting a job'. Many people need a structured environment and goals set for them to succeed (something slightly forced - I personally teach not just to help others but to also keep myself working on things). Of course, that's not everybody and some have no problem working on 3d art all night long (just make sure you are improving each time). In the end, there are no guarantees either way. With games, movies, social networks, etc. the distractions are endless.
All I'm saying, is find out what person you are, and then proceed accordingly. I also agree with Kanga that everybody needs some traditional art training, however I don't agree on going to a straight fine arts college, as I haven't seen that succeed too often. I seriously think some training in these softwares like zbrush and Maya do help build confidence onto the traditional art they've learned. I also think it's very powerful to be entrenched around people that also want to work in the digital arts on a daily basis. The more I believe you get separated from those people, the more difficult it becomes in my opinion. Gnomon and Van arts that you mentioned are both great schools with a good mix of digital and traditional arts. However, there are many other schools that you can succeed at for ridiculously cheaper prices if you look close enough. The department I just left had seriously helped get a student into every major place you can pretty much think of and cost about 1/100 that of Gnomon. And that's not a knock on Gnomon as I believe they can get you where you want to go faster than we could, it's just gonna cost you big time. Also, Gnomon and the like are specialization schools, meaning their degree is worthless if you ever consider not wanting to be in the cg field down the road. Just something to ponder. The more you educate yourself on things, the more you'll end up making the smartest decision.

Last edited by MrPositive : 11 November 2012 at 09:22 PM.
  11 November 2012
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