What skills do you want to master? ( 7 tips to get ahead in learning)
Reading Time: 9 min 10 sec

When we talk about advancing our skills, the feeling of being stuck in the same place for a long time can be discouraging.

It opens up the questions of doubt like:

  • will we ever be good enough
  • do we even have an understanding of the skills we want to master

In the beginning, any skill we decide to learn can embody a feeling of being unreachable.

 

If we talk 3D modeling, drawing, texturing, sculpting… Each of these skills may have different learning curves that may appear easy, but the moment we try, everything seems hard.

 

Why does it seem hard when we try it, but others do it with ease?
Why do we struggle so much?
Why are our skills not improving?
What could we fix?

 

In order to fix anything we need to find and isolate what exactly is there to fix.

The most common reason for learning and growth frustration is this.


Our current skill level does not match the skill requirement of our task.

 

We can use a game like Dark Souls as an analogy to illustrate the problem a bit better.

We are a level 1 character in an arena with a level 150 boss.

The only thing we know to do is to mash random buttons but not sure why we fail attempt after attempt.
Other people mash the same buttons and they do much better than we do.
The difference is, that others spend their time learning the rules of the game, and they play the game.


What appears to us as a random button input, in reality, is a purposeful action.


So, we need to do the same.
Since we are new, to make the game easier, we can grind the first levels.

We learn the basic moves, and with each new skill we learn, we adapt it to the previous one. That way by the time we reach the final boss, we´ll be well prepared.

 

To someone who never played the game, the only tip we can give is;

“Well just don´t get hit.” Anything more than that would not make sense.
However, for someone who plays the game, now all the advanced tips on build and game strategy have more value.


How does that reflect on learning our skills in 3D, sculpting, or drawing can be summed up in three words.

Time, patience, and practice.

 

We have to dedicate time to practice and arm ourselves with patience. Do not rush into that boss arena.

What should we grind in the beginning, so that our skills match the tasks we want to accomplish?

 

How we build our skills matters as much as what skills we build.
Our action today becomes a habit tomorrow and a day after that.


If we work on the principle that we abandon all the projects we start, that is our habit of tomorrow.
We are the person who abandons all projects.

If we work on the principle that precision in our work does not matter today, that becomes our habit of tomorrow.
We are the person that does not do precise work and precision does not matter to us.


Habit of tomorrow we need to build today.

 

We can start here:

  • Learn the software and master hotkeys
  • Start small, and keep it simple
  • Practice proportions
  • Practice topology
  • Create case studies
  • Keep a library of references
  • Create and create again (Do not be afraid of repetition)
Learn Hotkeys

Learning hotkeys sounds trivial, but it is an important factor in increasing the speed and efficiency of our work.

Instead of searching for tools and operations, we´ll save ourselves from unnecessary clicking.

Most importantly, with hotkeys tied to basic operations, we are not removing the focus from the creative process.

Bind at least the basic operations you use frequently to a hotkey.

As we get more and more confident we can expand to additional keys that are not in our top five list.

Start small and keep it simple

Lemme know if this sounds familiar.

We start a project, and we realize that some parts are challenging.

We ask around and we get ten answers from ten different people.

 

We may say thanks, and nod our heads, but in the end, we still have no idea how to set in action the advice or feedback we´re given.


Also, how do we know if the answer we received is
the answer?


Eventually, we start another project, that has a similar problem and we start the same cycle again.

The problem is, that the person providing the feedback does not know our skill level so feedback is given only on the assumption.


They may assume we know some basics, but if that is not the case, even productive feedback is outside of our range of understanding.

 

As a game analogy, similar to saying;

For that boss, you´ll need an elemental weapon with a FP mod to heal as you deal damage so health does not dip below 20%. Ouh, and make sure to bring a Rod of Desdan found in Lake of Despair”.

 

Like huh… and we have no idea what the person is saying cause we may be not that far in the game, or we have not found the right items yet.

 

What we usually overlook is the power of simplicity.

We wanna focus on simple tasks.

In our case, creating simple objects and forms.

 

Completing simple forms will give us enough practice material, and most importantly, we´ll complete the project which will increase our confidence.

 

Another benefit of working on simple projects is that they are done faster.

To put it into perspective, instead of struggling with a complex object for hours or days, we can complete multiple simple projects in the same time frame.


By the end of the day, we´ll still have something to show, and we´ll create a habit of bringing projects to completion.

 

Having two or three smaller projects done is always better than abandoning complex ones.

Practice on small objects, keep them simple and do them precise.

 

Make every move with purpose and every action with the end goal in mind.

 

Without a goal to reach (defeating a boss, finishing the game), we´re just mashing buttons on a game we may give up tomorrow.

Practice Blockouts and Proportions

Now that we know that if we´re a beginner (3D Modeling, Sculpting, drawing etc), it is better to avoid complex forms for now.

Instead, we´ll focus on creating and completing simple objects.

Ok, but how do we do that? How do you practice efficiently?

We´ll need to practice a few things.
Blockouts, proportions, and topology.

Practice blackouts, and with that, practice proportions.

Blockout is the essential part of every model, and it will define the direction in which the rest of the model will go.

Polished blockouts and polished primary forms, add a sense of completion even without any detail.

Details on blockout and primary forms that are rushed, expose only that we did not have either enough patience or enough skill to approach the simplest challenge.

Again comparing this to a game, give your 200+level character to someone who never played the game.
All those flashy moves, armor, and large HP bar mean little if we have no understanding of how the base game works.

How do we practice blockouts?
Take any object, and try to see how would you recreate it by keeping the shapes simple. No need to worry about topology, only the shape, structure, and proportions matter.

Practice your observational skills. Keep your results close to what you´re trying to create.

Even in the complexity of human anatomy, shapes can be reduced to their simplest forms.

If we fail to create the simple shapes of human anatomy study, chances are our observational skills need refinement.

Once we refine our observational skills in basic forms, we may proceed and think about all of its complexity.

Practice topology

How do we practice topology?

Topology is probably going to prove to be the most challenging. Regardless of the shape we´re creating, even if we got the proportions correct, this is where most likely we´ll get stuck.

A tip here is going to be the same, keep it simple.

If we have any parts on our blockout that we´re not sure how to model, the best thing to do is, isolate the part, and work on it separately.
Break it down to its most flat surface, and explore how the topology would look to hold the corners.
This way we´ll build up the object piece by piece, and ease up the load on our workflow.

I have a full feature content on this topic if you would like to expand on it further.

Do case studies

Case studies are there to expose weaknesses in our skills.
If we expose the weakness, we can work on improving the foundation.


If we struggle with the 3D modeling process we´ll create multiple versions of the same object until we have a clear idea of the workflow.


If we use the game analogy again, some builds are better for bosses, some give better attack, and some better defense.

Here we´re doing the same thing.

We´re exploring situations until we know the strengths and weaknesses of each.


A practical example of this would be if we decide to build a robot, but we´ve never built one before.

How would we approach building a robot then?

Can we build the whole body?

 

If the answer is no, then we need to practice anatomy.

  • body form
  • muscle positions
  • skeleton

 

If we understand anatomy, but have little understanding of mechanical functions, then that is our next case study.

  • mechanical limbs
  • mechanical joints
  • mechanical muscles etc

 

By making case studies on various parts, we´ll also build a mental library of all the body parts made, so connecting it all into one single project, will be less challenging.

 

The same approach will be applied to any other object.

Tank, spaceship, car, etc. We´ll be building it piece by piece, bottom up.

Full form, to its smallest detail.

 

We need to create the head first to sculpt the eyes.

We need the form of the car to model the lights.

We need a robot form to model the complexity of the joints.

 

Here is how you can test if your skill is up to the task.

Pick any project you wanna make.

Let’s take a humanoid robot for example.

Can you create a robotic head effortlessly?

Can you make multiple variations of that same head effortlessly?

 

If the answer is no, find what elements of that head you find most challenging.

The answer to that question becomes your case study.

Keep plenty of references

Reference is key to anything we´re planning to make.
References also may reveal the function of the object.
If we know and understand the function, then the design process will make more sense.


Here is a small test on the importance of the references.

 

Try to model a car without any images or videos next to you.

Or a hand.

 

These are objects that we see daily yet still we would struggle to establish a basic and accurate form.

 

In the beginning, our focus should be on precision.
Precise translation of what we see in the reference images, into our viewport.

 

The reason why you should follow the references is this:

  • We´ll gain a better perception of how objects are built
  • We´ll have a sharper eye for proportions and details
  • We´ll build a mental library of components and elements that we´ll be able to implement in future projects.

 

Give yourself a small challenge.

For example. Try to model a toaster or better yet, a simple iPad without any reference.

 

Then see how close you get with the following factors:

  • overall proportion precision (length, width, thickness)
  • corner sharpness and smoothness
  • distances between the forms

 

The results will be a benchmark for anything to come.
If we fail on something simple like an ipad, the chances that we create a precise and accurate results without any references are very slim.
References increase those odds greatly.

Create, and create it again

Repetition is a factor that is often overlooked.

As we start to learn 3D modeling, drawing or even sculpting, we may stick to simple objects and forms. We either look for tutorials or simple things we can recreate like a chair or an ipad.

 

The question is, if we decide to make an ipad, how often do we create that ipad?

Do we draw it only once? Do we model it only once?

 

Or do we create it once, and do it again and again and again?

 

In the beginning, our approach should be the following.
We should create that ipad as many times as it is necessary until we get the right bevel on the corners, the right sharpness of the edges, or the just right dimensions.

The goal of repetition is to expose the weakness of each attempt ( especially for beginners).

The benefit of repetition is seen in the final result.

Polished drawings, sculpts and 3D models serve as the commitment to a high standard.

We can not reach high standards if we do not want to practice.
We can not reach high standards if we do not have the time to commit.
We can not reach high standards if we do not have the patience for creation.

To truly level up our skills, we need to dedicate our time.
We need to focus on our practice and be patient in the process.

Laser down your workflow weaknesses, isolate them and convert them to case studies.
Level up your case studies from simple to complex over time.

The learning curves may be steep, but there is a peak on top of that curve.