In our Getting Started in 3D article, we mentioned how important we think it is for a budding artist to regularly show their work.
Getting involved in the online computer graphics community is probably the single best way for a novice artist to grow and improve. Nothing can take the place of honest-to-god hard work and practice, but a good solid critique (or compliment) from a peer can really go a long way.
Digital art can often feel like a solitary pursuit, especially if you don't live in a media hub like L.A., Vancouver, or New York. Why isolate yourself any more than you have to when the computer graphics industry has such a vibrant online community surrounding and supporting it?
Here are some of the best places on the web to get your artwork out there and make some connections in the 3D universe:
Popular 3D Forums & Communities:
Forums are the heart and soul of the computer graphics world, and there are quite a few of them. Most of the spots on this list have large, active memberships that manage to strike a good balance between aspiring novices and seasoned professionals.
More importantly, pretty much every forum listed here has a section dedicated specifically to "show and tell," where artists can post both works in progress and finished artwork, and receive constructive criticism from their peers:
- CGSociety – CGSociety (or CGTalk) is probably my personal favorite on the list. It's enormous, which can be good or bad—bad because it can be easy to lose yourself in the shuffle, but good because you're essentially guaranteed to find an answer to your questions here. Beyond the forums themselves, CGSociety also holds contests, workshops, regularly publishes production spotlights, and has a premium membership option that lets subscribers build a portfolio page through the site.
- 3DTotal – It wouldn't be a stretch to call 3DTotal the UK equivalent to CGSociety. They've got an extensive forum, a lively challenge section, and a well stocked store-front with eBooks, training videos, and a monthly web-zine called 3DCreative. 3DTotal also has fewer members than CGTalk, which makes it easier to land your work on the front page with a coveted "top-row" selection (you've still got to be pretty darn good though).
- Polycount – While CGSociety and 3DTotal probably cater more to the film & visual effects industry, Polycount lends it's focus emphatically toward game-art. If you've got your sights set on a job at EA or Bioware, this is where you ought to take root. Unless of course, you prefer...
- GameArtisans - GameArtisans is the other major option for artists hoping to find work in the games industry. They're also notable for playing host to the massively popular Dominance War competition, although a string of controversies surrounding this year's contest has left the future of the competition in question.
- ZbrushCentral – This is Pixologic's official community site, and as the name would imply the major focus here is digital sculpting in Zbrush. A lot of the work that gets posted at ZBrushCentral also ends up at one or more of the other forums, but if you're trying to learn the digital sculpting ropes (and you should be!), this is where you want to hang out.
- Conceptart.org - OK, CA isn't exactly a 3D forum, but where would the computer graphics industry be without concept art? This is one of the premier forums on the web for artists interested in learning character, creature, and environment design. It's worth a look if you'd like to develop your digital painting skills alongside your 3D repertoire.
- DeviantArt – DA is a massive (absolutely huge) community for artists of every variety. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of art are uploaded to DeviantArt every day, so it's relatively difficult to get noticed here unless you're actively promoting yourself and networking. That said, the 3D portion of the site receives fewer submissions than many of the other sections (like drawing or painting, for example), so there's a pretty good chance you'll be able to get some eyes on your work. As a 3D artist, I wouldn't put too much stock in DeviantArt, but every artist should at least maintain a presence there.
- Area - Area is Autodesk's dedicated community site. I wouldn't exactly say the forums are bustling, but if you're using Autodesk software and have a technical question, this is where you'll find your answer.
- Others - And here are a few more to round out the list. Most of these are somewhat smaller, but you'll find talented artists at every one of them:
Keep Track of Your Progress
In addition to occasionally posting your work at one or more of the forums listed above, it's great to get into the habit of keeping some sort of sequential record of your progress. Blogs, of course, work well for this sort of thing.
As far as blogging platforms go, my opinion is that Tumblr is as quick and easy as it gets. It also has the added benefit of being significantly more social than WordPress or Blogger, making it easier to connect with other artists. However...
Instead of a blog, consider creating an art dump
My recommendation would actually be to pick a forum you like and start an "art dump" thread. Createt a thread, name it something awesome like "Justin's 3D Art" (you can do better than that though), and post all your work there.
Not just your finished pieces, all your work. Sketches, WIP images, loose concepts, test renders, and yes, finished images as well. The more you post, the more comments and suggestions you'll get—people tend to connect more with a final render if they've been watching it progress from start to finish.
Forum threads can be a hassle to navigate once they start to grow, but the plain and simple truth is that your work is much more likely to be seen by people that can help you improve if you post it at a forum instead of some forlorn WordPress blog in a forgotten corner of the internet.
Now get out there and show off your work!
Don't forget, we've got a forum section of our own here at About, and we'd love to see it get off the ground. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to post something you're working on, please don't hesitate to drop by!