How much drawing and painting have you actually done? If you have never done any, then it’s going to be really hard for you to understand everything I’ve said. Those who have tried to draw and paint seriously immediately understands, because the act of drawing and painting will directly explain to you through your experience of doing them why learning the foundations from 2D is a different experience and will give you a lot more value as an visual artist overall.
If you’ve never seen an accomplished artist take a piece of artwork with a lot of problems, and then within a short couple of minutes completely transform it into a far more compelling image by making both broad and selective improvement to it–all by just doing a quick paintover, then you will have a hard time understanding the power of an accomplished 2D artist to make instantaneous decisions that completely alter the quality of an image. And we’re not talking about only being able to use image adjustment tools like contrast and color correction, but actually completely alter forms, lighting, composition, color palette, anatomy/figure, balance of selective detail, etc, and be able to do it without having to operate a bunch of various parameters in a software. All it took was one paintbrush in Photoshop, and that’s it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through Steven Stahlberg’s “PAINTOVER PLEASE” thread, but I highly recommend you go through it. There are many excellent examples of how he masterfully improved other people’s images by doing quick paintovers, and those images include both 3D and 2D images: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=359226
I don’t know if you do music or know anything about music, but a similar analogy is when people who only learned how to make music through using DAW software and clicking in the notes via the MIDI editing view and arranging audio loops. Sure, they can still learn about music theory and how to compose/arrange music by clicking with a mouse on a screen, and they can still create good music using that method for learning and creating music.
But now compare that, to another person who actually learned music through actually playing instruments, able to perform the music with expressiveness, be able to instantly improvise melodies and harmonic progressions, to able to instantly play what he just composed in his mind and hear the music without having to first input all those notes and expressions into the MIDI editor first with a mouse. Also, a computer software interface cannot allow you to create instant performance with all the expressiveness of heart and soul that you put into the music, because the controls don’t allow that kind of instant feedback like a human being with hands and ten fingers and instant eye-to-hand coordination that translates every creative impulse and instinct into instant action relayed by muscles and nerves, and then out of a musical instrument.
Would you rather watch a guy clicking away with a mouse on a screen, or would you rather watch a musician play an instrument? And if you had a choice, would you rather learn how to compose/arrange music by clicking a mouse on a screen full of MIDI notes, or would you rather learn it through a musical instrument such as a piano or guitar, so you can instantly play what you’re composing in your head and music will come out of your instrument, and you can improvise and alter your performance according to your creative impulse without having to input all that date into a software first and then wait for it to spit out a render? And wouldn’t you want to be able to quickly hear if a melody or harmonic progression works or not by simply playing it as soon as your mind thinks of it, and also be able to play whatever is in your head for someone else to hear, such as showing someone a new musical idea you’re thinking about?
It not hard to see how what I’ve just described is a very similar analogy to 2D versus working in 3D. While advances in 3D such as Zbrush and advanced texture painting software has bridged some of the gap between 2D and 3D, there is still a big difference between the two.
I have plenty of students who are 3D artists (and some are lead 3D artists and technical directors at big name studios), and they came to me because they finally realized they needed to buckle down and learn the foundations of visual art in order to move forward as artists. It took them years to finally figure out the reason why the were never able to become as good as they had hoped was because they were missing the critical foundations of visual art, and the best way to learn it is through proper training as artists. Many regret not having started to draw and paint much sooner, as they would be far better artists by now if they did. Remember, these are accomplished 3D artists working in some of the biggest VFX, animation, and game studios in the world, so it’s not as if they are clueless or haven’t put in the time and effort. It is because they are accomplished that they realize just how important traditional art training is for those who really want to excel and be the best visual artist they can be.
Now, you can decide that you want to do it your way and ignore 2D and try to learn everything through 3D, and maybe you’ll succeed. But there’s also a chance that years from now, you’ll end up just like those students of mine, living with regret and lamenting the years you’ve wasted not developing effectively as a visual artist, and you’re already aging and have to compete with those who did learn and train effectively and are far more advanced than you artistically. Not only are their 3D works kicking your ass, they can also draw and paint circles around you, and every time you apply for a job, it’s those guys who are getting the jobs. I don’t know if you have noticed, but in many job descriptions for 3D artists, the candidate requirement often say “2D drawing and painting ability a bonus.” Now, why would art directors give a shit if their 3D artists have traditional art skills, if it wasn’t actually important to them somehow?
Basically, I want to help you prevent future regrets. There’s so much to gain by developing effectively as a visual artist and learning traditional foundations of visual art, and there’s absolutely nothing to lose. You gain additional valuable knowledge and skills on top of 3D ones, and you will be a much better artist for it. But ultimately it’s up to you. I’m just trying to pass on hard-won insights I’ve gained in my journey as an artist, hoping that you can benefit from them.