Thibaut Bourbon

Your CG routine - how do you keep up the pace ?

Hi :) I registered for around 6 months now, and have sometime hard time to maintain a good training tempo. Some weeks go really well and I can complete several exercises or course, and then it also happens that there's couple of weeks where nothing really happens. 

Of course there's always moment where one does actually not have time, but I would be interested to know what are the community's routines and learning process. Do you have any tricks or technique to get yourself started? Do you allocate a certain moment of the day to practice ? If CG is a hobby or a side-job (that's my case, I have a "regular" employee job AND work as a freelancer in CG), how do you find a good balance ? 

The motivations is almost always there, but I find the hardest to both get started and to go eventually complete a given course, without being distracted by other tutorials.

Please share your experience!



  • I also have a regular job and just take my first steps in CG, because I want to work in CG and quit my current job. Well.. anger at my job is strong motivation to practice in something I really LOVE. I don't have enough free time to practice at work, so I do this at home. I wouldn't risk my life saying to my wife "Hello honey, this evening I'm not gonna spend time with you and our daughter because CG Cookie lessons are waiting" - so I work in Blender at late evenings and even night hours when everyone is sleeping.

    And sometimes it's really hard especially when it's not weekend, and I have my alarm lock-n-loaded on 6:30 AM. So I usually practice from 10-11 PM till 00-02AM. It's hard to sleep 4-5 hours per each night, so I use usually 4 days per week for Blender. (My record was to start at 22 PM and to go to bed at 5AM. And then after an hour and a half I heard my alarm rang and went to work).

    Later I noticed that my activity lacks of structure, I tried to learn of everything at a same time. So I've made some schedule (e.g. Monday - modeling, Wednesday - texturing in Substance, Friday - animation, and so on), because I think 3 hours of "scheduled" work are more valuable than 6 of "random". I get involved in the mobile game project, just with 4 enthusiasts like me, so I have quite a tight schedule, and my motivation is not to let the others down.

  • Resilience is important if you wanna progress.
    Take a course you really wanna finish and stuck to it.

    Bookmark your pratice routine as if it was a sports training or so.

    For  exemple, allocate 3x2 hours in the week like monday, wednesday and thursday from 7P.M to 9 P.M.
    Keep on having free time to meet people and have a social life. But force you to follow your program.

    Then you'll see that once you've started working, these 2 hours will go very fast.
    Then if you can work 2x4 hours on the weekend that's great.

    I use to train 4 hours every night and 15 hours on week end when I was employed.
    But try to be more reasonnable as it's not good to get too tired, you'll go burnout.
    Also training when tired is not as efficient as when you're fresh.

    If you switch one day to full freelanceing, then just pratice in your office hours whenver you don't have any commissioned project.

  • crew

    I'm really glad to see a thread about this. It's been a pain point for me as an instructor and for CGC as an educator. In fact the majority of members tend to lose motivation and bail after a few months. Which is a bummer to me personally because I love CG and I do my best to teach clearly and passionately to pass along my love for the medium.

    Some weeks go really well and I can complete several exercises or course, and then it also happens that there's couple of weeks where nothing really happens. 

    The crew has been discussing this reality for a while now. Our data suggests most members are hobbyists, which makes sense that "I don't have time" probably means "I've got other stuff I'd rather be doing." Whereas we'd like to think most members are like zzickkie in that they're trying to develop professional-level skills. With this approach, members show signs of being motivated and passionate, able to make it through courses, interact with the community, answer questions, apply what they learn and post images/video of their work to the gallery. Not that there aren't understandable peaks and valleys through the learning process.

    But I think you hit on something, tbrbn that keeps bouncing around in my head:

    The motivations is almost always there, but I find the hardest to both get started and to go eventually complete a given course, without being distracted by other tutorials.

    I'm starting to wonder if our "buffet" approach to offering training is more negative than positive. A huge collection of courses can be distracting and overwhelming, as you imply. It makes me think that reformatting course offerings into guided learning flows is best. I.e. Learning Flows on steroids.

    Do you think that could help keep you on pace and motivated?

  • Main motivation for me still is to get into the industry full time. That is the driving force there. however, it also means that I realised things won't happen overnight. 

    for me cgcookie has been tremendous resource, and ofcourse i've scoured other places too, the more you have resources the better you are learning wise. 

    since i do got fulltime dayjob and around hour long commute with a bus, I've watched lot of videos during that time. so doing the course gets bit double take that way, I've already watched the video when i'm rewatching them on the evening and continuing which ever the course is going. looking back the first year, I pretty much did everything cgcookie had to offer. results weren't that great though. what I realised though was that i could really lose track of time if it werent our dog that comes to poke me when i need to take him out and 5 hours had gone past. :)

    So having healthy obsession of this also helps, you don't get de-motivated so easily. 

    Lately though, since i got part time intern for 3dconcepting and ue4 shading, my learning has tend to gone towards what they need and i go about and try to learn it as fast as i can and get something that might be usable. 

    how i manage all this; wish i could say its easy, its not. having deadlines helps though. and when you are doing work for someone else, your ego must go, if something needs to be changed, you'll change it and move on to the next task. and speaking of deadlines, they are easy when someone else sets them, if you do you own work, putting a deadline for that is different, since you can always talk yourself out of it, beware of that. :)

    this next is more for the cgcookie crew. Personally its bit hard to answer which one really is better, this learning flow or the previous version of cgcookie. Problem to articulate is that both worked for me at the time i was learning. and oddly enough, i've gone and re-watched some of the really old ones when I was thinking that "hell i remember seeing this problem in one tutorial" and found it pretty easily. for example the scifi paneling tutorial, though i'm not using it exactly same way but it had the base stuff i needed to solve. and then there is the scifi helmet series, as a flow that whole thing works brilliantly.

    so many good stuff in here that i forgot most of what i was going to post, however, one last thing i'd say: It's A Journey, embrace it and enjoy it, it takes its own time.

    and patience, which i've gotten lot more these past three years, and progress. which i hope this next 2picture set shows. :) Thank you Cgcookie!

  • I'll tell you what I've been told by many when it comes to online education. "You get what you put into it." The person that puts 4 to 8 hours a week into these courses isn't going to get the same out as the person that puts 12 to 24 hours. I'm not trying to tell ya that there is a magic number to hit but if being a professional is a serious goal then finding time to dedicate to it won't be a problem. That's not to sound mean or anything, I hope it more motivates you to really analyze your time and your goals. If its something you really want, you WILL find time. For me I carve out 2 or 3hrs every night after my wife and kid go to sleep. I find its much easier to concentrate when I'm the only one up and I don't have to split my attention between what's in front of me and whats around me. Doing it this way also makes sure I'm devoted to my family during the day. 

    The motivations is almost always there, but I find the hardest to both get started and to go eventually complete a given course, without being distracted by other tutorials.

    For this in regards to starting, I can understand this feeling. I wish I knew what psychological thing does this to us. Its a mental block that can only be taken down by doing the very thing its trying to keep us from doing....and that's to just start. Do anything. Agree to yourself that you will watch 1 minute of a given tutorial and really listen to what that minute has to say. *Spoilers* I bet you will get farther than a minute. If its a project, agree to yourself that you will get one edge laid down if your modeling. If animating tell yourself you're going to get one pose keyed in. Again *Spoilers* I bet you get more than that done because now you've taken down that barrier and the fun of learning and creating something is taking over.

    theluthier I like your idea. I know based on the way I learn, I'm more confident moving through a Learning Flow than making one on my own. The "buffet" style would still work great for hobbyists and self starters. Having flows based on professional discipline (generalist, texture artist, character designer, animator...) would be kind of cool. 

    A final note. Never underestimate the power of a good list. To jot down what you want to accomplish during your next learning session will keep you focused and goal oriented. I was introduced to a very helpful site called Trello and I use this to create my daily lists. Check it out.

    I hope this helps you out some. Happy learning my friend! :)

  • Yes, you've mentioned a briliant thing: just try to launch Blender, and you'll see - all these vertex and edges will hold you for hours! Even if your are not in a proper mood for practicing, just listen to a very beginning of any tutorial. Because sometimes the only first 3 seconds are the hardest

  • For me it would be totally helpfull if cgcookies had more learning flows (guidance in general) and better time estimation to complete a course, sometimes you don't know if you are doing things slow or it's normal.

  • crew

    I'll link to an article I wrote a while back that might help others:

    Even before I started working with Unity and CG in general on a more full time basis I always tried to keep a schedule going for things I wanted to learn. I think one of the big things to help you out is having an actual deadline to get something done. When I finally decided to really pursue this more I was teaching through videos on Youtube. It was a weekly thing and I wanted to teach something new. I always tried to do bigger and better things and that pushed me to continue learning. Even now it's a continuous process of learning. If you have no real reason for learning something it's much easier to put it off. 

    Above my desk I have this quote, I like looking up at it whenever I'm feeling like I don't want to continue with something:

    I post it because the more engrossed you get into something the easier it'll be and the more you enjoy it. You don't have to spend hours a day working on something. We all have busy lives, but you must be willing to give something everyday. If you really do want to become a great artist, create something small everyday. Even if it sucks, if it's hard, just do it and feel good that you accomplished something that day that moves you forward. 

    Start small, really small. If you said, today I will just delete on face on this model, would you do it? Once you get started you start to realize "oh I can do this too". Take the pressure off by ensuring you'll do something incredibly small, anything else will feel like extra. I do this with game projects I work on. I say "I'll just add this one idle animation", soon enough I have a fully functional moving character because I had already started.

  • Wow I wasn't expecting so many answers, it's heartwarming! Thank you all for sharing, it feels nice seeing most of us went through similar phases. phoenix4690 , no offense taken at all, on the contrary !

    Since I moved from hobbyist to "wanna-make-a-living-of-it" mindset, my goal is quite well defined: mastering techniques. I can actually feel the before and after registering to CGC, my workflow really improved. So I need to keep on the effort, I liked the program/schedule idea, it's after all exactly like when practicing any activities: simply define when and commit!

    I guess I will also eventually have to make a decision also with my job since it will not be sustainable to work 40 hours per week in parallel. Already went on the edge of burning out, need to be careful :)

    theluthier , regarding the "buffet" offer, it's difficult to have a sharp opinion on it. It's sometime really nice to wander through the courses and discover something new, especially if you are not really looking for something. But the learning flows are really important as well, and maybe you could consider making some more "career-oriented" (or professional, you name it), like complete workflow from concept art to photo-realistic animation (it's just an exemple). Or broaden the application fields of CG, it feels quite oriented toward VFX and video games, there's plenty of other possibilities maybe? It's just suggestion out of the blue, I'm not complaining though :D



  • I like the schedule idea, dedicating a day to a specific technique! I will give it a try.

    Luckily I do not need to practice late at night, it's more finding a balance between different projects I work that is the challenge. But scheduling and prioritizing seems a good and smart advice :) 

  • Thanks for the link and for the advices, it's inspiring :)

  • Whereas we'd like to think most members are like Z zickkie in that they're trying to develop professional-level skills

    theluthier In that case, wouldn't it make sense to teach professional software pipelines? At least for people trying to get a job in the 3D industry, I would think their chances would be better if they were learning things like Maya, Nuke, ZBrush etc.

    More than anything, I think Blender shines for independent artists and independent game developers. While it may never give you the best looking results on its own, it works amazingly well as a jack-of-all-trades kind of 3D software and costs nothing. Bearing that in mind, instead of focusing too heavily on highly detailed, professional-standard, sexy models, I think there should be more focus on utilizing Blender for what it is: a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I also think emphasis should be placed on video game related material, because gamedev is starting to become very popular and there are too many newcomers in that market looking for good learning material.

    Er what was this thread about again?

  • I found out in life that, when you are learning something new, you are growing.

    Whatever grows needs fertility and fertility happens to be a typical female property.

    Whatever you are afraid of or fighting, you can’t use to make your happiness. 

    You will experience this fear or battle as inner resistance.

    The power of men is the unity with male and female, the gender war, is the killer.

  • crew

    Good question, John. Ultimately we believe that software is a distant second priority to conceptual understanding of workflow. We often refer to this as the Why over the How. Conceptual understanding translates to other software whereas the software proficiency doesn't. Therefore if we teach conceptual understanding, our students stand a better chance of developing the higher-level skill which lends itself to professional success. It also renders the software, the tool, as appropriately less significant. Be it Maya, Max, Modo, Cinema 4D, or Blender - they all do 95% the same thing. They're all just jack-of-all-trades tools. It's the skills of an artist that studios are interested in.

    Take for example, Pixar. They use proprietary software and thus no one can be trained to use their software unless hired. Pixar understands that they can train any good artist to use their brand of tool. They understand that it's the skill of the artist that's worth the hire.

    That said, Blender is the most accessible 3D tool. So it makes sense for us to embrace that large door of entry to the medium.

    As a secondary motivation, we believe Blender has the potential to play a much bigger role in the professional industry than it currently does. Just look at how it's grown in the past decade. Valve is supporting the Blender Dev fund with large chunks of cash, Pixar sat down to talk with Ton a couple years back to discuss openSubDiv, the "Man in a High Castle" team uses Blender for the intro (I believe), I know that Epic Games has written custom Blender tools for the members of their team that use Blender -- that's just a few of the ways Blender continues breaking its way into the industry.

    Back to that secondary motivation, we like the fact that by teaching Blender at a professional level, we can further push the software forward in that direction. Currently, Blender absolutely shines as an independent tool. But I think its potential is much bigger than that and the future is coming quick.

    PS: As we explore what CGC looks like in the years to come, specifically in terms of pushing the envelope of pro-level education, we will teach explicitly about using other software. Because you're right that professionals use a lot of tools and a good artist needs to know how to adapt.

    I hope that explanation helps! 

  • Hi Thibaut,

    I have experienced and still experience your pain. I was deeply engrossed in CG as a hobby a couple years ago. In fact, my engagement in CG has peaks and steep valley plateaus where I won't touch Blender for months at a time. I have a 40 hour a week job and three school aged children. 

    Here is what I noticed personally: I will start learning something specific. Like modeling, for instance. In the course of modeling, I want to delve into some other discipline, like texture painting, or sculpting. I think, because I expend so much engagement in modeling, when I go into something else, it feels overwhelming. After all, I just came out of developing muscle memory for all the keyboard shortcuts. But when I expand into another area, I just quit. 

    But then, I pick it up again, because it is fun to create things. So I wake up early in the morning and I have some "things" that I want to make. So I get back into using Blender. I hone different skills to reasonable competency and then I get trapped in this weird space. With my limited amount of time to develop these skills, I also find I'm engaging with the CGC community or digging into a new tutorial that comes out.

    Now I'm back after about an 18 month hiatus. I want to make a game and I am doing it presently using Blender and Blend4Web. I create. Then I realize, I don't really texture paint things so good. I have to learn that. So it has been a balancing act of working on my project and yet, learning something new. And when you lean on tutorials, there is a comfort in the tutorials and it's hard to escape. It gets better as you gain competency.

    So what I need to do is time blocks. I evaluate on a daily basis. I have the mornings and the evenings after the kids are in bed. I will use those bookends of the day to either plow forward on my game or engage in an exercise. I can certainly stand to do this better as I fall to the temptation of catching up to theluthier on the CGC Leaderboard... (shakes fist vehemently)

    Do you write your goals down? When you are not motivated so much, is there something small you can do? Often, when you start doing something despite not feeling motivated, you'll find the drive to keep going with it. Try to get away from doing tutorials if you can. I know, it's so tempting. I see all sorts on BlenderNation via my twitter feed that are enticing.

    Sorry for the ramble. I feel like something in my experience for the last 7 years as a hobbyist with a full time job is not uncommon to other folks out here. And, I just don't know how to "fix" it. There is probably not a magic solution. It will take self-discipline and just pushing for your goals. It ain't pretty. 

    I'm rooting for you!

  • Most of the time it feels as if you're fighting your biology, like you're predisposed by your genes to procrastinate, some weird glitch in the brain that is running the wrong lines of code and some subroutine that is supposed to kick in, isn't kicking in. Then at the end of the day your brain runs the "lets make you feel guilty for wasting so much time" code. And you're like "oh thanks brain, why throughout the day didn't you ran the "lets make good use of our time" code""

    So you have to make a very conscious and hard effort to get into that headspace of "Alright, lets do some work!", only to have it last for an instant before you're browsing through some news website and looking at countless headlines and youtube at the channels you're subscribed to. 

    So for me, personally, is a balancing act, you have to make some sacrifices, because it feels as if modern life routines are highjacking your motivation.

    I believe a big one is doing a mayor cut off the things that create those small dopamine dependencies that make you doze off into nothingness. Those are all inside the computer and cellphones, "social networks" youtube rabbit wholes, web surfing, reddit, etc. It is so much easier to sit in front of the computer to watch a tutorial when your day has been spent off of the chair elsewhere.

    It is not being physically tired that gets you, is being mentally overwhelmed that is the problem. Tired muscles are nothing, keeping the mind sharp is the key I think. Out mental wit is what we work with in Art and most of the things these days suck your mind dry, they require mental awareness and before you know it, you deplete your days ration.  

    Hacking you brain also works I think. There's the simple act of just starting, just start, as simple as that, start. Turn on your computer and have CG Cookie as your default starting tab, make it a habit of the first thing you do is to open Blender, just have it open there, quickly start a tutorial in the background, open Artstation, etc. Another thing I like is holding in my head the feeling of a finished project, of how awesome it'll turn out. It is a hard path from stat to finish but the thought of getting there is motivating.

  • Wow, such good insights, and I have little advice that differs. I started using Blender in 2005, because I wanted to do 3D and didn't have money. Plus I wanted to show my classmates at university some cool things I could do! I got into tutorials and such, but a big habit I've gotten into since then, is trying to learn every facet at once. Never failed, and I ended up progressing so slowly from then, till even now, that I feel like I'll never be a master at anything.

    I sometimes hate liking so many things, because my discipline flies out the window! However, I like that I like many things because I can understand a good amount of the things I enjoy. So Blender, with all the modelling, lighting, rendering, sculpting, that iota of animating... I love playing with it, but can get tangled in the decision-making of focus. What thing shall I focus on now?

    I also love to draw, but I've had to ease down on all the things that I work on, because I end up overwhelming myself, then envying those who have mastered so aspects of their work. Even when I have plenty of time, thinking too much really has gotten in the way of doing a lot.

    I did make a "Sketchule" that a friend and mentor taught me. It was for concept art, but I could incorporate whatever practice I wanted, plus free days of fun. That might be a good idea, too! So, I'd practice on character, figure drawing for humans or animals, environment, objects, composition, colour, etc. I'd break this practice down into different days and durations. While I was really disciplined, this helped a great deal!

    Now, when big things happen, whether good or bad (in which both happened and shattered my world in different ways), I won't lie, it was really hard to climb back up and have the energy to do anything. But I've started again, and I feel like I'm new at Blender again, and everything else I enjoy. But I like the climb! I'm enjoying it this time, and I'm unsure why. :)

  • i don't keep up the pace. 3D is just one of my interests, i  don't have the luxry of working a 4 day week or less so things get left  to gather dust. still haven't been able to make a start on my spider  animation, have left a plane in mid-build and several other projects  haven't even been started, on the 3D side. on the art side, i have about  8 pictures thumbnailed and on the writing side my novel is being worked  on now, and i'm plotting another couple of screenplays.

    not enough hours in the day or days in the week.

  • sweenist many thanks for sharing, I can relate to most of what you describe indeed. What currently helps me is to accept that what I'm producing right now will not be perfect but I must be done with it regardless its quality. That way I believe I will avoid fine tuning over and over the model.
    Then I can move on to a new project which hopefully be 1% better than the previous one. That's what I understood was a good way to progress, but the theory to application gap is pretty large !

    Do you write your goals down? When you are not motivated so much, is there something small you can do?

    I have my own goals but not written, maybe it could a source of motivation to see them written black on white, good point!

    Thanks again for sharing, and good luck to you too!

  • I believe a big one is doing a mayor cut off the things that create those small dopamine dependencies that make you doze off into nothingness. Those are all inside the computer and cellphones, "social networks" youtube rabbit wholes, web surfing, reddit, etc. It is so much easier to sit in front of the computer to watch a tutorial when your day has been spent off of the chair elsewhere.

    I think Simon Sinek describes it super well, check it out if not already done :) I disconnected for social networks a while ago and it's crazy how tempting it gets anytime. There's peak and plateau as well, moments when you just want to space out on youtube... Good tips and habits you describe, just updated my default starting tab :D Thanks!