I get loads of people asking me how to prepare for a job or get started in the design and visualization business and / or what schools to attend. I wish I could be more helpful.
Something you need to understand is that I’m almost 51 years old. So, I have no contemporary schooling advice. All my formal schooling (late 70′s early 80′s) was completed well before PC’s and digital art. I began my career with traditional media and all my digital skills are self taught. Therefore, I really have no idea in 2012, what the great digital art and design schools are and what the best path is for a young person interested in the trade. I’m not being a jerk, it’s just that I’m not seeking a entry level job or looking for classes.
I will say that in this biz, it’s more important what you can DO -vs- where you went to school. You can complete a curriculum and not learn a thing, and you can learn loads outside of a classroom. A strong portfolio speaks volumes. There are 15 year old artists on deviantArt that have more skills than many, many art-school grads.
There are all sorts of non-traditional means of learning viz skills. Check into the Gnomon courses, join forums in your area of interest, and seek out tutorials. Seriously – sketch. every. day. Every day. Your most important skill is being able to visualize and communicate shapes. Each day, pick something you find interesting and sketch it. The next day, invent your own similar object and create several versions of it. Keep your sketches in a notebook so you can see how fast you progress.
If you can visualize shapes and “invent” ways to depict them, then the software just becomes another tool. Just having software experience and no creative ideas is almost useless. Nail your visualization skills and then “all” you need to do is learn the software you want – not both simultaneously.
Unless you choose to pursue a career in entertainment (movies / games) which I really discourage, don’t spend too much time on sci-fi robots and spaceships. They’re fun, but designing the coolest toaster / TV / vacuum cleaner / phone or car is where the money (and long term employment) is.
What strikes me as quite odd are the artists who write and say they love car design or mechanical stuff, yet when I check their gallery, it’s full of big eyed anime stuff and doodles of everything but cars and machines. What’s that all about?
The other requests I get a lot of are: “Where can I find the best beginner tutorials?” I have a hard time answering these requests because, to be blunt… Does my work look like I need or use beginner tutorials? I know this is going to sound like Gramps telling you he walked to school in the snow, but I learned 3D using the very first releases of 3D Studio running on DOS. Photoshop since rel. 2.0 Mac Only. No internet, no YouTube tutorials, no DVD instructional stuff. The web is absolutely freaking packed with info. Tons of it. Show some initiative and Google that stuff. If 1,610,000 results from searching “3D Studio Max tutorials” can’t get you started – nothing can.