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