Today I'd like to discuss the ideas of growing in a skill as well as being inspired and motivated to do so.
It's a topic I've had on my mind a lot lately, especially with a ton of new games with visual diversity that we've missed out on with all of the realism in gaming as of late. What got me inspired to create game art was looking at art in games when I was a kid, so I think it's vital to keep that thread of inspiration alive and push it even further.
So first I'd like to tell you what not to do. Do NOT copy the work of another. Period. End of statement. There's a reason most visual artists go through what's been coined the "weeaboo" or "deviantart" stage. When you're watching all these amazing TV shows as a kid and want to draw as well as them, generally the first thing kids do is try to copy exactly what they see. They'll trace over books and screenshots. They'll look into what pens and pencils that artist used. They might spend absurd amounts of money on "How to Draw" books that give nothing but simple instructions for individual characters.
Now sure it gets them drawing and really invested in the artwork, but if they aren't careful it leads to a lack of individuality and a lack of improvement. The problem is... this happens to people who've already become great artists too! They focus so much on copying someone else's methods that people either look at them as a fraud, or improve at such a slow rate that they're left behind. Just look at all those Minecraft clones!
THERE'S A BETTER WAY!
Now I'm not going to turn this into a whole lesson on how to be a better artist, but I do want to point to some resources that are already available and have been available for a long time!
1. Documentaries/Commentaries - This is one that a lot of people kinda put to the wayside, but documentaries and commentaries are usually RICH in information about the processes that the creators went through, their methodologies and tools and hardships. Valve Software includes commentary in all of the games included in the Orange Box that goes over how the development process for each of the games went!
2. Converence Panels - GDC, PAX, SIGGRAPH, CES, and lots of other acronyms and abbreviations exist for different parts of the game industry, but you can find a ton of other conferences for various interest groups. These events aren't just big rooms for people to wander and talk to each other, they've got panels and showcases and press conferences that talk about new and upcoming information as well as teaching audiences even more information!
My personal favorite example of late is finding out about Gigantic from Motiga, a game studio from Bellevue, WA. They recorded and shared panels on character design, game design, and level design for audiences to watch on their YouTube free of charge. GDC has a HUGE VAULT of information for people to check out and learn from! Check the companies who made the games, movies, books, and music you like and chances are they'll have some similar content.
3. Self-Study - I know this one sounds like a drag, but by self-study I don't mean forcing yourself to learn. I mean take all of these other resources and apply them in meaningful ways! This is something you're passionate about! If you wanna draw a big, green-eyed monster, DO IT! Maybe this time try coloring it differently or playing with a different brush or do a value study and put the green in later! You still get to do what you love, but you're adapting and improving upon the skills you already have!
Spend more time finding out how your favorite things were made and less time worrying about if what you're doing looks the same. At the end of the day, being an individual with a ton of inspiration and knowledge is better than being an exact copy-cat.
Thanks for reading!
PS! For all the digital artists out there who would like to learn digital painting, Ctrl+Paint provides a ton of lessons for free!