Giving Back to Move Forward
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
As artists we should never stop learning. We should always strive to advance our skills, add new tools to our toolkit and find more efficient ways to create. This will allow us to create more and increase our enjoyment of the creation process. Over the course of my professional career one activity has played the largest role in advancing my skill set…educating others.
I’ve always had a passion for teaching and over past twenty-plus years, I have discovered an amazing side effect of teaching others. In order to explain something properly, you have to better understand it yourself. By sharing your knowledge, you actually become more knowledgeable about what you are sharing.
I encourage everyone to share what they know with anyone who will benefit from it. Know that, in the end, the person that will benefit the most from it is the person sharing, and EVERYONE knows something that someone else doesn’t know.
What to Give?
One of the most common roadblocks for artists wanting to share their knowledge is simply not knowing where to start. The key is to not over think what would be valuable information to share. Some of the most trivial things weren’t so trivial when you were first getting started.
I remember when I first started working with Bezier curves, and after a day of struggle, I swore I would never touch a computer again. Now I don’t even think twice when adjusting Bezier handles to refine my curves. I also remember struggling to properly render out an image sequence when I created my first 3D animation.
When deciding what information would be most valuable to others, simply think about what tripped you up when you were getting started… even if you just got started last week. There is something you know now that you didn’t know before. It could be a new tool you discovered that has made a given task easier, or simply a setting for a tool that has been in the software all along and you just now discovered it. You could also share a technique you’ve cooked up that has been saving you time while creating.
Where to Give?
There are so many avenues these days to share your knowledge. Below are 5 ideas to get you started:
1. Online Community Forums
This is the easiest way to get started. No matter what software you use, or what medium you work in, there will be an online community you can become a member of and contribute to. One of my favorite things to do is to scan the forums looking for posts where people are asking for help. When you spot a question you know the answer to, post a reply with the answer… easy-peasy.
You could end up saving someone hours of headaches, and the more detailed your response, the more you have to think about why your answer works. You’ll understand something you already knew that much more. Win… Win!
Once you’ve put in some time answering posts and you’re ready to take it to the next level, start tackling questions you don’t know the answer to. Try and solve another artists’ problem and if you come up with the answer, not only have you helped someone, you’ve learned something new in the process. How cool is that?
I put this into practice when I was teaching myself Python scripting. I took on the task of writing scripts that people were requesting on the MODO forums, and it forced me to learn commands that I hadn’t thought to look into in order solve another artists’ request.
2. Write an article for your personal site/blog or your favorite cg magazine.
Hosting useful information can be a great way to drive traffic to your site. This will not only be a way to share information but can also be a way to get your name and work out in front of others.
Online sites and magazines are always in need of content. Create an article explaining a tool or sharing a technique and offer it up to a magazine or site. Not only could this be a great way to share your knowledge and a self-promotional tool, it can also be a nice additional source of income.
3. Help a Co-Worker or Classmate
This is another easy one that many overlook. Whether you’re a student in a classroom or an artist at a studio, chances are someone around you will get stuck from time to time. When you become aware of someone in need of help, take the time to offer assistance. If you know the answer, share it. If you don’t know, help work through the problem. Two minds are stronger than one. By the time you come up with a solution both parties walk away knowing something new.
4. Create a Video Tutorial
Some artists prefer creating videos over written articles. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo are a popular free resource for hosting video tutorials. With a decent headset/microphone and screen recording software you could be up and running in no time. Before recording your first video I’d recommend investing time in watching videos that other people have created to see what you like and don’t like about their training videos.
5. Offer to speak at a user group meeting
If there is a local user group where you live, offer to speak at the next event. It’s not only a great way to share information but an amazing opportunity to network with artists in your area.
When to Give?
Seriously! Stop reading and start sharing some nugget of information. Many artists will feel like they should wait until they have the holy grail of techniques or information to pass on to others. I have found some of my most popular articles and tutorials have been on everyday tools and techniques. On the flip side, some of the techniques I was most proud of received the least amount of traffic. You never know what will help the largest number of people until you put it out there.
It’s never too soon to start sharing your knowledge, and remember that your true value isn’t your knowledge of a tool or a technique you’ve developed. Your true value is your ability to problem solve and grow as an artist. So start giving back and you’ll start to see just how far forward you’ll advance as an artist in the process.
“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.” -Christopher Reeve