Always Be Learning: Keeping your Art Career Fresh

Always Be Learning: Keeping your Art Career Fresh

3d artist Warren Marshall explains, why artists (and game developers in general) have to study and learn constantly.

3d artist Warren Marshall (Legend Entertainment, Epic Games) explains, why artists (and game developers in general) have to study and learn constantly.

Warren Marshall Art


This is meant to give you the spark to continue learning. It’s something I think a lot of us forget to do as we age into our comfort zone and start getting really good at what we do and not stopping to take a look around.

What’s new? What’s happening out there?

Trapped In Time

Warren Marshall Art

We’ve all worked with or heard about artists who were stuck in time. Not BAD artists – just set in their ways. The one who has been using program X for 10 years, they’re 4 versions behind, have all their scripts setup, and their workflow nailed down, and they don’t want to change. Or they’re afraid to change because they perceive that it’s too much work. Or they don’t want to shake the jello and reveal that they’re been sitting still for 5 years now and don’t know about the latest tech.

And to be fair, they’ve worked their butts off to get where they are and they feel they’ve earned it. And they have. But as time goes on, they become less relevant as younger artists are hired into the artist ecosystem. New artists come with new skills and are generally literate on the current tech, whatever it might be. If you aren’t keeping up with the industry, you’re going to get left behind.

The Symptom

Warren Marshall Art

If your first reaction to hearing about a new app or program or a new workflow is to immediately get defensive and dismissive, then you may need to recognize that you’re falling into a comfort zone.

Drawing a line in the sand and saying you’re not going to look at substance painter because you’re perfectly comfortable in Photoshop. Or you’re too busy to learn a CAD program because you’ve been modeling in subd for 10 years and don’t need anything else. Or your workflow is all you need and there’s no reason to upgrade your modeling app. That sort of attitude is going to poison your chances moving forward.

Stay nimble. And flexible. And open.

Keep your mind in a humble place and recognise that other apps and technologies have value for you. And may help advance your career one day.


Warren Marshall Art

A side benefit of learning new things is that it opens your mind to options. I love looking at a weird shape I have to model for a prop and realizing how my brain is working. Should I just subd model it? Maybe MeshFusion would be a better option? Maybe I bake it down in MODO so I can use the rounded edge shader. I could send primitive shapes to ZBrush and dynamesh it together. Or maybe use a CAD program like Rhino 3D and use the precise boolean system there to join it all up.

The point being that if I wasn’t pushing myself to learn new things I might have one option … Subd it. Or ZBrush it. Having one tool in the toolbox makes you REALLY good at using that tool but you don’t realize that maybe that tool isn’t always the best choice.

Having options is liberating.

Master Of None

So let’s be honest … nobody is going to become a master of every app and every technology out there. That’s not real life.

But I find a lot of value in knowing OF things rather than being a master of them.

What does that mean?

I sometimes watch tutorials for apps or techniques that I have no use for at the moment. I do that because I want to be aware of that app and what it can do.

Finding Time

Warren Marshall Art

Obviously, we’re all busy. I’m so busy I can barely breathe most days. But I still take 30 minutes to an hour each day to work on something I’m weak at. Or watch a piece of a tutorial. Or play around with a new program to expand my options.

How do you find that time? You make it. You schedule it.

I find setting a timer for 25 minutes or so on each task allows me to focus on something, without guilt or pressure, because I know I won’t be spending hours on it by accident. So watching a portion of a tutorial or playing in a new app won’t eat my day … but I WILL learn something.

Always Be Learning

What’s the worse that can happen as a result of this? You learn something new. That sounds like a good problem to have!

I hope, if nothing else, you can take away from this tip the idea that there’s a whole world of information out there waiting to help you do your job. New apps, new workflows, new ideas. And all if it can be employed to help you in your career.

But the first step is taking the initiative to learn it.

Warren Marshall, 3d artist (YouTube Channel)

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