Looking Back at Five Years with Blender
Remember trying Blender for the first time?
It was about eight years ago for me. I downloaded the program and opened it up with high hopes. Then I was immediately confused by all the buttons and menus, and promptly closed it down and uninstalled it when I couldn’t figure out how to do a darn thing.
When version 2.5 came out a few years later, I saw the nicer interface and decided to give it another shot. My goal was to make art for video games, and any way to do that for free seemed like a good plan. Thanks to CG Cookie and Blender Guru tutorials, I was able to learn much faster than when I was puttering along in 3ds Max on my own.
Five years of doing anything is a long time, at least when you’re 20 years old. I’m way better now than I imagined I would be when I started, but I’m still way behind where I probably should be.
For anyone curious or for those just starting out and are needing encouragement, I’ve made an abridged timeline showing my progress. It’s scary showing my bad artwork along with the good, and you can bet that there’s a lot more where that came from! This is just a snapshot.
Keep in mind that all of this has been done in my spare time outside of school and work, so you will improve much faster if CG is your full time concentration.
Behold, my first render! Glorious, I know.
Once I found a few beginners tutorials, I was able to make it a bit farther and get the ball rolling. Why I stuck with it and didn’t go on to another hobby, I have zero idea. But I’m glad I did!
This first full year I made a lot of images, some from tutorials and some not. It’s super important to experiment on your own with out any help, and that’s just what I did. Sometimes. One year after I created my first snowman, I had to make another. It became my tradition to figure out how I had improved with a Christmas scene.
This year was the year of the contests. Pretty much every non-test image I made was for a Blender Guru competition. It was my goal to win one, and I finally did with my post-apocalyptic image. I didn’t count it, however, because it had the least amount of entries of any competition and didn’t feel like a legitimate victory. So, the goal still stands to this day. But I did improve a lot because of them! Having a deadline and theme to focus on really pushed me farther than I thought I could go.
I almost won a competition in 2013 with my Cabin in the Woods image. A large part of what made it good was the huge amount of feedback I got from the community, and I’m very thankful for everyone who gave me their advice. It was my first “successful” image that got a decent amount of attention. In fact, it’s gotten more attention than any image I’ve made to this day.
Does that bother me? Yes. Did I use to worry that I wouldn’t be able to do something like that again? Yes. Did I try to do the same type of scene over again? No.
I wanted to become a better artist and target my weaknesses, instead of getting stuck in a rut. I was somewhat comfortable with environments at this point, so I made a robot instead of another nature scene. I was terrified of making faces, so I created one in my yearly Christmas scene (no snowman this time), even though it’s pretty hidden. Don’t get stuck doing one thing, go outside of your comfort zone. It definitely doesn’t feel good to create work you know won’t be your best, but it’ll be so worth it in the long run.
In 2014 I was busy graduating from high school, working a night shift job, and starting college. Needless to say I didn’t have as much time for Blender, but I still entered a few competitions and continued making tutorials when I could. I still sucked at creating faces, so I purposefully created two renders with faces as the focal point and an animal. Just to see if I could. Both are far less than perfect, but I’m so glad I didn’t shy away from trying.
I also won the “Young Guns” category of the 2014 CG Student Awards, which was pretty awesome. I definitely couldn’t have done that by figuring things out on my own without the Blender community.
This was a great year. I started working for CG Cookie, finally launched my own website, and replaced my night shift factory job with 3D freelancing. I’ve still been extremely busy with college and work, but I’ve still had time to work on a few fun projects.
Thanks to everyone who has given me advice and critiques along the way! I would still be rendering cubes without you. I realize I have a long way to go, and I look forward to making even better art in 2016 🙂
Happy New Year!