Finding your Discipline: Pursuit of a Technical Artist

I remember listening to the director of our program talk about the importance of disciplines in the game development field. He pushed the idea that all the students should work on having a T shape, in which a developer has a breadth of skills but focuses on one discipline. I didn’t understand the importance of these multiple disciplines until putting it in different terms. The game development industry is comprised of a great deal of specialists who do their jobs efficiently. I commonly compare a development team to either a raid group or a sports team. These groups are comprised of specialists who precisely know their roles very well. For example, a tanks job is to stand on the front line taking damage from enemies and minimizing friendly casualties. Same concept goes for a lineman who is on the front line keeping their quarterback from being sacked.  Finding the specialty, known as a discipline, can sometimes be half the battle. It can be overwhelming with the many different options to choose from and also possible combinations. Some people classify themselves as a generalist which could still fall under a discipline. My pursuit of being a technical artist begins with figuring out which discipline fits me best.

I began by thinking about the traits and skills I possessed which fit under one specific discipline. The three prominent traits are multipotentiality, being highly supportive, and my technical prowess in art. Growing up I always tried many things and explored my different talents. I used to follow a pattern of trying a new activity, becoming competent in it, and then going back to trying something new. I never had the chance to fully reach my potential in that one activity. This is how I realized that I was a multipotentialite, someone with many interest and creative pursuits. As a technical artist this a great trait to have since I work on different tasks and disciplines in the pipeline. I’m a graphics programmer, character rigger, and tools developer all in one. Being competent in all three of these disciplines allow me to communicate between artist and programmers while playing a supportive role.

Since the beginning of my gaming age I always loved to play a supportive role. When playing games, I would pick a character who aided my teammates. Whether it was the medic in a first-person shooter or a healer in a massive online battle arena. This also expanded to real world situations like team sports or working with other people in organizations. I always got a euphoric feeling from helping out others and felt at my best doing so. Thinking about how much this effected my life I realized I wanted to play a supportive role in the development pipeline. The first discipline I thought of pursuing was a producer. It seemed to fit me well at the time especially working as a project coordinator at one of my summer jobs. This quickly changed after taking a three-dimensional art assets production class. I realized that I had an eye for art and had very little to no trouble with understanding the technical side of creating art compared to other students.

I never thought of myself as an artist.  To this day I still don’t consider myself an artist, because I don’t possess the rudimentary skills necessary. On the other hand, the technical side of creating art comes easy to me. Rigging models, procedurally generating art, and working on VFX are easier than if I was going to do concept art or sculpting a character. I remember in elementary school I took an art class. All of the students were free handing still life drawing and other beautiful motifs. I took a different route and created a brick wall. It was one of the most beautiful brick walls the teacher witnessed. I took my time and precisely planned out every brick while drawing each one with a ruler. If I had an art style it would involve using my technical skills. The mix of both art and technical skills define a technical artist, it’s even in the name.

I am currently refining my technical artist skills while working on two different projects as a technical artist. I also plan to take classes specific for the discipline. I’m still learning about what it means to be a technical artist, but I am enjoying every second of it.

  • Remember no one knows you better than yourself.
  • You already know what you want to do - it’s just a matter of realizing it’s there and fits you.
  • Think about who you are as a person and a developer. How did you get here in the first place?
  • Go out there and try different things, don’t be afraid to fail. If anything, try to fail and learn from your mistakes.