I know there’s quite a large number of you following me who are aspiring concept artists. It’s a tough fucking industry. As I come up on my first full year out of school, it is reinforced to me more and more often that the only way to have long term success in our field is to do what others cannot do. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. You have to do what is difficult.
"The great trouble," he wrote, "with the vast majority of our artists at home is that they cease to be students too soon. They spend a couple of years—even three or four years— in Paris, or some other place where students congregate, and, bored by the drudgery of the serious atelier and seeing certain easy-going pictures attracting a certain amount of attention and having also a certain amount of merit, they throw over the opportunity (which, mind you, never comes again) to make themselves as perfect as they may be with the aid of all the facilities a far-seeing body of eminent artists have, during many years, accumulated for their benefit, and dash into paint with a confidence bred entirely of ignorance and intolerance of the training that they, at that ill-informed and blind period of their lives, do not see the need of.” ~Edwin Austin Abbey in 1892
Emphasis my own.
As a concept artist it is very easy to pop some photos on your work and impress yourself. It’s very easy to get comfortable with your work and feel impressed by what you do. It’s very easy to model some shapes in 3d, render ‘em out, and paint on top of them and feel accomplished.
As I’ve said before, there’s really nothing wrong with any of this. It’s an extremely important part of our industry, but especially as a student you can not afford to get caught up in the ease of those processes, you can not get impressed with what you do and settle. Fundamental studies are so incredibly important and as more and more people want to be concept artists, even (or especially) at art schools, you see so many people who get caught in that trap. Students who sometimes are actually quite bad who don’t want to go life drawing or plein air painting because photobashing is easier. This even extends to some life drawing techniques! Often students will even take the class of an impeccable teacher like Kevin Chen but they will stop looking at the model deeply and will just indicate the way Kevin does and get praised by others for it.
I don’t want this to seem like a rant specifically against things like photobashing- it’s a rant against the dangers and seductiveness of self-satisfaction and the things that bring that contentedness about.
Make yourself as perfect as you may be, always. Being an artist is not about fame or popularity, it’s about expression. You get better so that your expression becomes more eloquent and thorough, and the things you want to express become more ambitious and complex as your talent blooms. When you stop pushing yourself to learn, you limit your ability to express. You should not only struggle to find answers; you must also struggle to find questions.