Why 3D artists want to learn to draw/paint?


@Ben - When reading your post, questions popped up in my head.

  1. During the six years you were trying to learn the foundations of visual art, did you actually use effective learning resources from authoritative authors, artists, and instructors? Or were you just fumbling around in the dark and chasing your own tail? Did you actively seek the guidance of authoritative artists? Did you constantly post your work in forums for critiques? Did you constantly approach artists you admired and asked for their advice when you were going nowhere and feeling frustrated?

Many of my students were stuck in a rut for many years, and they felt so lost, confused, discouraged–like their dreams are slipping away and they couldn’t do a thing about it. Many of them went to art school but didn’t learn anything worthwhile because they had bad instructors that either didn’t know how to teach effectively, or weren’t even proficient artists in the first place and had nothing worth of value to teach (not to mention there are schools out there that basically take your money and then just teach you the same thing you could have learned from reading the software manual). They often told me they learned far more in a couple of weeks in my workshop than they did in all the years they went to art school. Some of them were self-taught and didn’t get anywhere, because they had no idea how to learn/work smart, instead of just working hard and being kind of stupid/ineffective about it–almost like banging their heads on the brick wall without clear results. But with effective guidance from me, within just a few week everything clicked, and they had so many big “AHA!” moments of epiphany that their minds were completely blown wide open.

See, they were smart–they knew to look for help. It was because they felt so lost and frustrated that they took my workshop, and it changed their lives, because my workshop was created especially for frustrated artists like them–to lead them out of the dark and into the light, so they can equip themselves with all the effective knowledge/techniques and learning/practicing/growing approaches that will get them fast and clear results.

So my advice to you is: You can’t just wander around in the dark without guidance. You need to ask questions, get critiques, search for advice, and be critical of the methods you are currently using to learn/practice/grow. There are some excellent books, videos, workshops, and classes you can take–you need to be resourceful and seek them out. Ask for recommendations and opinions in forums. Talk to artists you respect and admire.

  1. Did you ever ask yourself if you had misinterpreted what you read online? And whose advice were you taking exactly? Were they authoritative animators you looked up to? What did your Animation Mentor instructors say? Did you even ask them for their advice before you dropped out?

Animation is not the same as general visual art. Plenty of people can animate quite well in 3D but can’t draw or paint. Animation is all about motion, conveying emotions and intent through body language and facial expressions, and acting. It’s highly specialized in one specific area of visual art, and does not overlap many other areas of visual art foundations (though knowing them won’t hurt at all and only makes you a more rounded artist in general).

  1. You said your passion is to create stories, characters, and scenes, so essentially you’re saying you want to be a creator/storyteller, and I’m assuming you meant in a visual medium–either through animation, graphic novels, illustrations, or video games. If that’s the case, then yes, you absolutely have to learn all the critical foundations of visual art in order to create rich and compelling worlds and characters. Have you actually made any effort to become a good storyteller? Did you study writing at all?

If you are serious about becoming a storyteller, you’ll need to learn storytelling–things like dramatic structure, character arcs, conflict and resolution, pacing, show don’t tell, start early and leave late, themes and motifs, the anatomy of humor, and so on. That in and of itself is another art form that can take years to become good at–you’ll have to write constantly in order to become a good writer/storyteller. One of the biggest mistakes we see all the time is visual artists who fancy themselves as storytellers but cannot write their way out of a paper bag, and the end up spending years of their lives creating short films or graphic novels with bad storytelling that no one really gives a shit about, even if the visuals look great.

  1. You didn’t say how old you were, but you don’t seem that old. I have students ranging from teens to elderly folks in their 60’s, professional artists and hobbyists, advanced artists working as art directors and total beginners, and none of them have given up hope. If you truly love something, you’ll love it regardless if it becomes a career or remain a passionate hobby–you’ll just keep on doing it for the love of it first and foremost. Even if you never make a career out of it, you can still create in your free time and share your creative vision with the world, or even develop it into a commercial property. Lots of people develop their own IP (Intellectual Property) in their free time and then share it online, and eventually built a following and turned it into commercial properties.

And finally, since you’re in the Art T&T forum already, stick around and read all the sticky threads–they will lead you in the right direction.


Sorry I rambled so long. Lunatique, thank you very much for your patient reply. You are obviously a natural teacher.
I am under pressure to relocate, so I cannot begin any more online courses at this time.

  1. It has felt like I’ve been bashing my head against walls, stumbling in the dark, yes. But I have tried to use the best educational materials recommended, so for example I own every Glen Vilppu DVD.
    At the beginning I posted a few drawings, and didn’t get any real criticism of the drawing itself, but just suggestions to keep drawing and to keep doing the exercises I was doing. I have no idea who any of these people were really, it was all just on the internet.
    But I trust in my own taste, and I could see that the major flaw in my drawings was a combination of mindset and manual dexterity; the lines were just very confusing and very clumsy. Loose and confusing, the finished drawings are inartistic, like the doodles of an adolescent.
    I can surmise that this difficulty is probably due to my lack of real-world drawing from life, and a deficient understanding of anatomy. I hope I can address both problems at once, when I am in a class.

  2. What really decided it for me was when I read in Richard Williams’ animation book an emotional appeal to aspiring animators that they first have a solid foundation in figurative art. I admit that I implemented the suggestion rashly, without asking my animation mentors.
    I did rather well at animating, and I’ve learned much since then. The problem for me was that I knew I would want my own models, rigs and environments to work with, and as you say, these are all matters very different from animating.

  3. Writing is my first love and I have made a thorough study of it, not only in novels and short stories but also in the fields of dramaturgy and film. As you say, you have seen many visual artists who are budding storytellers, who are skilled artists but weak authors; I would say that I am the inversion of that archetype, with strong story skills and poor artwork.

  4. Art could never be just a hobby for me. Even if I am always terrible at creating it, I love it too much ever to stop trying to make it my career.

I will just keep looking for some kind of school, that I can move near. I wish I could find a real “program” in which to enroll, though, rather than just taking random studio sessions.


You should post your work here at cgtalk (in the WIP section, or start a sketchbook thread and post all your studies/practices in it). There are some members who give excellent critiques in that area of the forum, and I also regularly provide critiques there too.

Once you are settled down after relocating, you might want to take a look at the workshop I’m teaching (called “Becoming A Better Artist”–linked below in my signature). I teach it roughly every 2 to 3 months, so it is repeated about 4 to 5 times a year.


I was trying to do 3d stuff for 3 years I think but I dont really think I improved a lot.I was busy with other stuff cuz I wanted to learn how to rig,animate or texture stuff better.
I am not sure about my skills in drawing.I could redraw something by watching it but to actually draw something to look good as on some pro work images I couldnt do.
At first I did 3d stuff like robots,cars and similar metal stuff and I didnt have much trouble but now I want to make some cool looking character,texture it and animate.I can do whole body at decent quality but when I need to make a head it just ends up too low poly,high poly,too boxy…I tried using blueprints but I must lot of times wonder where should go what,mostly for mouth and eyes.By practicing I kinda always get the back of the head nice low poly and nice aligning to the jaw.I tried to do some anime hair,but fail at that point too.
Also when you say drawing do you mean I need to have lot of tools like pencil and similar.Using photoshop isnt really handy cuz I use mouse.If I could draw with my hand on the screen with that magic pen I could improve my skills.
Anyway I am just blabing nonsence :slight_smile:
I would probably need some profesional help from the teacher up here or anyone who knows something that might help me.
I think this is my first post here.


Start reading the sticky threads in this forum–you will learn a ton from them.


Hi all, I’m trying to focus on being able to draw right now so I can model later in the future. Let just say that my drawing level is probably close to a 3rd grader. What resources are there to guide me in the proper technique to draw. My goal right now is to be able to draw what I see so wherever I am I can doodle and practice more.


Read the sticky threads–they contain learning resources that will teach you what you need to know.


I started getting into 3D after the fact in drawing- interesting enough I found the practice in a 3D environment helped me visualize my objects in a 2D environment where my perspective was very weak- and my studies in a 2D environment helped me stylize my 3D work. I’m still a beginner, but these were unexpected niceties :slight_smile:

Excellent post, I referred a a few other friends to it thank you!


Hey Lunatique, can you help me with the name of a good book for starting drawin again, I have some experience but because I’m a 3d artist i think I left the drawing path aside, I want to return to it and begin with it and really improve it, I have read that drawing with the rigth side of the brain is a good book but what do you think about it, or have a better advice to do until i take the next class with you.

thank you


I highly recommend Jack Hamm’s Drawing the Head and Figures book. It was an important book in my formative years.

Harley Brown’s eternal truths for every artist is also a really good book that covers the basic foundations.

Drawing People by Barbara Bradley is also a really good book.

The legendary Andrew Loomis books are also excellent–every single one of them.

There are other recommendations in this sticky thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=226083


Out of curiousity, is there a online course giving for techniques on drawing?


Do you specifically want to just learn how to draw, as in how to draw animals or people or buildings–that type of learning, or do you want to learn drawing as in you want to learn all the critical foundations of visual art (composition, perspective, values, lighting, color theory, anatomy/figure, stylization, expressiveness, drawing, painting, etc)?



I would like to learn the critical foundations first!


In that case, you should take a look at the workshop I teach (linked below in my signature).


Thank you Lunatique so much for your posts! I finnished art school and i learn only to draw becouse the teachers are forced so much on drawing,modeling,painting etc. but i need to learn values,color theory,lighting etc…I have experience with 3d, i learn maya, and still i missing that part…so thank you for this thread!!

I think about animation for 2 years and im in love with maya, i have wish to learn every single part of it…I tried different kind of art like oil painting, gouache painting,drawing,calligraphy,modeling,woodcut etc…but really i find my self in cg… im really happy becouse i know so much artist that didnt decide which path they will go. You inspired me, now i have even more wish to learn! Thank you…

And as you say i will read all sticky threads! Thank you for that advice.


As a child I spent most of my time drawing and sketching things from my favorite comic books, tv shows. I know most 2d artists can agree with me that Dragonball Z played a role in your wanting to become an artist :). If not, then it may just be me. But somewhere along the way I lost my drive to draw. I spent more time reading and socializing and just forgot to pick up a pencil now and then. Women also played a key role. And once you stop picking up that pencil and drawing, you lose what skill you had worked up. It is not gone completely but it doesn’t just come back to you.

In high school I began to teach myself 3D. And yes. I did struggle. I was trying to concept complex projects in the free 3D Program Blender and then polish them to completed projects. This was just creating a giant heap of mistakes. I eventually realized that I needed to practice my 2D art. And so I started keeping a sketchbook.

I’m going to put it bluntly. When I started drawing again. It was the single most discouraging thing that I have ever done. They were horrific and terrifyingly awful drawings. I was so disappointed in myself. I then went off to Art School where I learned the basics and foundations of art and I have been getting better and better at 2D art and it has been showing in my 3D art. I improve with both every day. Don’t get me wrong. I still have a long way to go before I can stand up to a lot of you here. But it is worth it to learn the foundations.

I’m sorry for the long post. I just really wanted to augment the OP’s original statement that Foundations in Traditional Art are, in fact, important in the 3D world. Even in Photography, and Cinematography. Any artistic field really. Whether you are an artist, an intellectual, a construction worker, a chef. Drawing is the best way to convey ideas. Especially ideas that words cannot explain.

So my fellow artists. Draw. Love the way your pencil dances across the paper. Love the lines you make. Love the feeling. Love the outcome. No matter what. The next thing will always be better.


sounds much like my education, and with the latter being me trying to teach myself because i’m now too skeptical of the education quality to want to drop lots of money for another college course.


To be honest this specific OP paragraph underpins the compelling argument for learning the foundational tenets’ that pertain to the traditional 2D Visual Arts medium as a whole irrespective of CG skill set the digital artist is conversant.

In that one such aspect in my opinion is entirely essential other than generating for example the primary subject matter in accordance with or very near too the envisioned artistic premise, whether 3D model, digital painting, and/or full figure - bust sculpt, so on and so forth.

Is lighting through both theory and practical application refined in particular for me via personal landscape gouache ‘en plein air’ [French expression - “In the Open Air”] studies when the mood took hold.

The theory initially formally attained in the classroom, is pretty much IMHO a defining factor in depicting an enhanced outcome worthy of the physical let alone mental effort in capturing “that scene”, plus forthwith I’ll humbly submit without which would not be possible.

So yes to reiterate, when transitioning across into CGI, prior foundational knowledge I’d gained is indeed an invaluable toolset to have in one’s bag if the intent is to further excel, in whatever proposed goals are set in place too achieve.

Cheers :wink:


Someone in another thread asked questions about how 2D can specifically help his 3D work (including animation) in terms of practical applications, and I gave him plenty of in-depth answers. Here’s the link to the thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?p=8051177


It’s a hard truth but you’re absolutely right, I’m currently stuck on something that I wouldn’t be stuck on if I hadn’t given up on drawing. :-/