3d artist Miki Bencz offers some frank and practical advice about being a professional artist, working for a company you love and why learning goes beyond education...
Hi my name is Miki Bencz! Besides pushing around vertexes and pixels inside a digital space, I like to workout, and fight with gorilla sized crazymen during a brazilian jiu-jitsu practice. If I'm not in severe pain from an armbar somebody performed on me with ease the day before, I am quite possibly hungover from a night out with the friends. I definitely feel the need to be alone and wander around the house in my pajamas ordering junk food or even worse cook something horrible by myself, but after a day of that I will most definitely need a beer in the city; just so the next day I can happily be a hermit again, talking only to doorknobs for twenty-four hours.
A collaboration with Tamas Sarffi who made the model, based on Jan Unolt's concept
The way I got into this crazy industry is pretty standard; I saw my brother's friend made video of a 3D scifi handgun firing when I was twelve and the next day I was already searching the intenet to learn how this stuff is done. At this point I would like to thank 3dtotal, since this was one of the first sites where I could find free, quality tutorials, and helpful people on the Threedy forums. After some challenges on the forums of 3dtotal, and further diving in to various subjects of 3D, it turned out that one of my teachers in highschool was looking for somebody who can light scenes in 3D "realistically." That was my first paid job! Currently I work with Moon Studios as a 3D character artist on the upcoming sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest.
To be honest my only goal here is to give back to 3dtotal what I received from it when I started out. When I was a kid I loved to see some raw, essential, and to the point advice. So that is exactly how I will write my experiences and advice below. It might be a bit harsh and "know-it-all-ish” but I can get my experiences across quicker this way.
What can you see in people that are the very best in this industry? They are passionate, obsessive, hard working and constantly improving. Passion can come from something you enjoy obviously, so discover a medium 2D, 3D, traditional, digital, sculpting, origami whatever it maybe which fascinates you.
Find pictures that inspire you (Pinterest, Behance, Instagram, 3dtotal) in that medium, and explore the artists that makes them and the way they use the medium you got interested in. Explore art styles inside the medium you found like fantasy, scifi etc., and experiment which you like the most? Delve deeper in to the subject, the more you like the making process the more likely you will become obsessed.
My very first portfolio which I used to apply for a job in game development.. fun times
Once you've discovered what gets you fired up, keep doing it for the joy, and see what you can come up with. Find communities, challenges, online forums (3dtotal, facebook groups, polycount, artstation) that give you even more motivation, other upcoming artists to befriend with and masters to learn from.
Stick to it and the results will come. Some days are easier than others, but by pushing through you will get to know yourself better, and discover magical moments that you would have missed if you quit. Show your work online, and apply to jobs you like once you feel comfortable with your work. At least this is roughly how I did it.
I heard this from my dad regarding universities and schools "University is not a place, it's a state of mind." You can go to the best art school in the world but if you are not open minded, humble, and striving to improve and enhance yourself, it will not mean anything; and you'll remain almost the same as you walked in the school.
On the other hand, you could be full of hunger, and motivation from your home with a crap computer and you can learn all there is on art from the internet, or from people you meet there. Mess around with mediums outside of your comfort zone, maybe ink, oilpainting or digital painting, these will broaden your perspective on art, and help you improve in your main artform as well.
A dagger I made based on my own concept. A tutorial is avaliable for this on youtube
Always be ready to learn from others, and accept that some people are further down the road of improvement than you are. Keep them as your North Star instead of handcuffs. I wasted precious time thinking about how others are much better or talented then I am, and it poisoned my passion for art. Avoid this mind set, no good can come from it.
Whether schools fit your personality or not, self improvement, open mindedness, joyful exploration and experimentation are things that work outside and inside schools, and are beneficial to practice at the age of eighteen and eighty alike.
Why would you strive to get better?
The better you are, the more options you will have job-wise all around the world, and the more likely it is that you'll find a place that suits you and brings out your very best qualities. Outstanding things can only come from a workplace that allows you to expand and improve. You can get a crappy salary, and a passion killing job in the industry pretty easily. Instead, constantly seek to improve your art; then you can get to places which are tons of fun to work at and also pay well. Everyone can whine that their job sucks, and everyone has the power to change that! Make sure you are at a work place because you want to be there, not because you are reluctant to change.
A recent progress gif I made showing how I build up textures (collaboration with Tamas Sarffi who made the model based on a concept by ssb)
You might smell like a beautiful rose, but if you sit in a room filled up with crap for eight hours a day, make no mistake: you will also eventually end up smelling like crap. I believe it's a good idea to take a good look around where you start working, notice how much people enjoy the work that they do there, how frustrated are they, or joyful. No matter the environment, if you spend a lot of time there each day, it will influence you for better or worse. I could have saved a few months with this knowledge I think.
Based on Corey Smith's concept
Employee or entrepenuer
Just keep in mind, that there is a growing amount of indie game devs, artists that live off Patreon or Instagram. You can work for someone, or carve out a piece of the pie with your own ideas. Many ways are possible these days, just make sure you find one that aligns with you personally, and then expand there like there is no tomorrow.
Based on yaohongzhi's concept
I think these are the most important things I've learned or noticed in my work so far. Apply what you like, leave out what you did not, and I hope this helped someone!