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I know it’s a cliche line to say that there is always more than one way to accomplish anything. I think that might be especially true for computer graphics. Of course, there are as many paths and processes to creating something like a painting as there are people who paint them, but you would think that with a system as rigid and, literally binary, as a computer, that there would be some processes that can only be done in one way.
I have a recent example. I am trying to achieve an effect, something sort of like feathers or the little strips of paper dangling in layers from a pinata. Over the course of a few hours I discovered about a dozen ways to do that. Some of them are existing, even old by computer graphics standards, techniques. Some of them are combinations of strategies. A couple I came up with and for all I know they are completely novel.
Some of them are purely geometry based. Just manipulation of triangles. Some of them are combinations of geometry and shader programs written to run extremely quickly on a computer’s GPU. A couple are purely image based, using layers of textures. The best ones for my purposes are probably combinations of all of these. Not one of them is the wrong or right choice. They all have their tradeoffs. 
I have thought many times over the years of getting a job teaching 3D modelling or animation. I have even applied a few times. I was once offered a job almost on the spot to teach a 3D course, but I turned it down. I didn’t think the school’s curriculum really aligned with the way I think digital art should be taught. There is not just one way to create anything, and there is not just one way to teach it.
I think that might be my problem. I have been doing computer graphics a long time, and I can see so many potential paths. Trying to tell someone new to it that there is a right way to do anything, or that they should try to do things the way that I do them just seems so wrong. Wrong and possibly harmful. People should work the way that works for them. But that also means that you need to try a bit of everything, be a generalist, before you know what does and doesn’t work for you.
Should a person new to, say, 3D modelling start by sculpting, hard low polygon modelling one vertex at a time, work orthographic or in perspective? I don’t know. I have a lot of tools in my arsenal at this point, but mostly, I know that I don’t know everything. I don’t have that self assured bravado that someone might need to walk into a classroom and declare that they know the path to getting you from zero to 3D artist in a few months. I know too much to think that I know that much.

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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