Mentoring in CG: How should it be done?

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  08 August 2014
Mentoring in CG: How should it be done?

So I am curious about the best ways to reach students.

How can working professionals more effectively mentor the next generation of artists?
What should they get in return (if anything).
And for the students, how would they like to be mentored? Social Media? Skype calls?
What should be that starting age? High School, College?

I am looking forward to your comments and opinions.
-R
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  08 August 2014
I think if it was a sort of on-line format it would be better. Dragging professional artists down to mentor students or skype more or less is unrewarding for the mentor as it would take more than just idly chatting on line. I think if the Mentor was being paid, it would have to be a Skype setup. I think 17 upwards would be o'k. If I had mentoring at that age it would have been invaluable.
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  08 August 2014
I'm too tired right now to post any thoughts on positive aspects of this, but based on my own experiences over the years, here's a list of what students definitely SHOULDN'T do:

1. Don't just email someone you found online, and then don't bother to properly introduce yourself. It's amazing how many emails I've had that just say something like "Hi, I'd like some feedback on my work, here's a link, bye". The lack of basic manners that some people have is utterly astounding. Those get deleted immediately.

2. Don't just email someone out of the blue and send the 30mb of images attached to the email.

3. Don't randomly add people on LinkedIn. Especially if you also don't even bother to introduce yourself.

4. Show appreciation. I've lost count of the number of times I've never heard back from someone after taking the time to write long, thoughtful responses to them. Not even bothering to say thanks is unbelievably rude.

5. Don't keep pestering the person if you don't get a response immediately. People are busy.

6. Don't email someone you don't know and ask them to get you a job at the studio they work for. Yes, people actually do this a lot.

7. Don't ask about proprietary tools. The artist is unlikely to be able to share more information than has already been made publicly available.

8. Make some effort at finding things out for yourself first. It's tiresome getting emails from people asking stuff that's already been asked, and answered, countless times online.

9. Exercise some level of self awareness about your work. Don't pester busy professionals asking for critiques if your work looks absolutely horrendous. There's a lot you can do on your own first without needing other people's time.
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  08 August 2014
Maybe that should be stickie, Leigh!

But seriously, the rudeness thing really irks me. I have had the exact same thing happen: Written extensive portfolio reviews or given other input, only to never hear from them again. People asking for stuff who don't have the most basic of human interaction skills will have no one to blame but themselves (but are usually the ones most likely to blame others) for their own shortcomings.When I get requests now, I just write a very short note with the expectation that they will never write back.
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  08 August 2014
I have only mentored a student once and it was a very rewarding experience. My understudy gained entrance to the Royal College of Art in London based on work he developed while under my care. He came in with a drawing of a cube and left with a folio that was professional and inspiring. Its something I am very proud of! It has to be said that this person is exceptional and the same results could not be achieved with someone average. You cannot make what is not there to start with, just help develop it.
Edit: This means choosing the understudy carefully and relying on an element of luck as well.
Quote: How can working professionals more effectively mentor the next generation of artists?

The best way is the old way. One on one in a studio that starts at 9 and ends at 6. Deal out tasks with instruction at the beginning of the day and review at the end of every day for 3 months. Crack a whip during the day.
Quote: What should they get in return (if anything).

You can only mentor someone if you are successful at your own profession because this is one of the things you teach. Your reward is leaving the world a better place. One of the biggest drawbacks of tertiary education is that large numbers of students are taught by people who have to make a living at something other than what they give lessons in, which means they are professionals in another field, and are not in touch with the latest information and techniques. This isnt true for every teacher but is a general rule.
Quote: And for the students, how would they like to be mentored? Social Media? Skype calls?

The experience is going to be less effective and if you use social media we are talking bulk and convenience instead of effectiveness.
Quote: What should be that starting age? High School, College?

3 months before the end of high school, or the summer holidays just before college. The understudy is old enough to have developed a character, know what they want, and learn methods and work ethics. Around 16 or 17 years of age at the earliest.
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Last edited by Kanga : 08 August 2014 at 09:05 AM.
 
  08 August 2014
I've had good and bad experiences doing mentoring before. To me, I think that the success rate all comes down to the student themselves. I've run into two types.

TYPE 1
This type of student is really the ideal. They're so open to structure and guidance that they'll take direction. My duty as a mentor is, essentially, to be a guide and point them in the right direction. Because, they're motivated self-starters who just need a little push & nudge they grow quickly. They're receptive to input and will, after a few rounds, develop a sufficiently thick skin as to not be crushed by critiques. They're willing to start from the bottom and work their way up the skill ladder. After a handful of confidence building projects, they're more than happy to be "kicked out" of the nest and allowed to fly off on their own.

TYPE 2
These people only claim to be receptive self-starters, but aren't. They want instant gratification. They think, because they see so many character models out there, that CG must be easy. They're masters in their mind. You can't tell them that certain topics are more advanced and should only be attempted after they've attained a certain level of mastery of the core skills. They want to start at the top. Foundation be damned. Worse yet, some of them don't just want guidance, but a free education. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to create full blown Gnomon-style video tutorials on the spur of the moment. Instead of doing hard work, they want you do do it for them. I get how emulation and following tutorials can be helpful, but I can't help somebody unwilling to help themselves. These people aren't self-starters, but lazy loafers.

If somebody asks me nicely, I'm more than happy to mentor. A few hours here and there won't kill me. I've done it many times for people in this webscape over the past 15 years. I'll be happy to do it for another 15. However, I do have a few rules:

1. NO LIP SERVICE. If you ask for my advice, don't just nod your head and do whatever you want. It's insulting to me and just shows that you either don't listen or can't take direction. You don't have to be my puppet and do whatever I say, but I don't want to feel like you're just f***ing with my mind and trolling me for shiggles. You came to me. The least you can do is open your ears. I don't have all of the answers, but I certainly know enough to keep you from making the same mistakes I once did.

2. PUT IN THE WORK. Nobody becomes a master overnight. Even those of us with years of experience are on a path to mastery. It's a journey, not a destination. If you're too lazy to even make the journey then you've already lost. There's no express bus. There is no "Make Cool 3D button." There is NO way to "Master 'X' in 21 Days." Period.

3. START FROM THE BOTTOM. You can dream as big as you like. That's fine. Just keep your goals & milestones more attainable and realistic. Don't jump into advanced topics like characters, vehicles, or animation when you can't even make a basic table or chair. Baby steps. Running comes later. Know your limits. Push them, but never so much so where your reach exceeds your grasp. That's the quickest path to frustration and failure.

4. NO WAREZ. I'm not going to preach here or take some moral high ground. However, I will say that I won't deal with people who don't play the hand they're dealt. If you're a student, you've got no excuse. Devs bend over backwards for y'all. Options are there for students. If you're just broke, don't be afraid of the freebie alternatives like Blender. It might not be your ideal, but the app won't matter at this point. Concepts and techniques are program agnostic. Any skill or technique you learn in one app can be readily transferred over to another. Don't come at me with warez because I won't help you. I certainly won't assist you in keeping your app cracked. I'm a guide, not pirate tech support.

5. DON'T BE A JERK. I don't mind sacrificing my entire weekend or nights to help you out. I can understand it if you've hit a wall and can't move on without guidance. I can understand it when you've tried to self-help and are at an impasse. I get it. That's what I'm there for. Just don't expect me to drop everything on a whim because you say so. I've got a life too. If I work out a schedule with you, don't break it. Don't think that my agreeing to help makes me your humble servant. Yeah. There certainly ARE people who think that you owe them. It's obnoxious.

6. I AM A RESOURCE, NOT THE RESOURCE. Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to question my guidance. Feel free to get a second opinion. My path doesn't have to be yours. I'm you guide, not your mold. It's okay to have multiple guides along the way. We all have something different to offer. If I'm blind in a certain respect, somebody else is guaranteed to see it right - and vice versa. My word isn't law. It's just an informed opinion; one of many.

Like I said, I've had good AND bad experiences doing the mentor thing. I've helped a lot of people and have had others really force me to question my own sanity. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad.... mostly.
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