When did the digital age of art begin? Was it when CGI was first used? Or when traditional mediums were usurped by their digital equivalents such as Photoshop, ZBrush, or a certain Blender? One thing for certain is that in this golden age of art, our creative industries have boomed, innovated, and thrived thanks to technology. But whilst digital tools and workflows are commonplace it’s the traditional thinking that goes on behind the pixels that really influences how effective your tools are and ultimately how great your art can become. So let us take a look at how some of our Instructors employ Traditional Thinking in their courses whilst exploited the power of digital tools.

Detailed Traditions

Maciej Kuciara: Devotion to the Details

Traditional Thinking: Deep research and meticulous detail.

Learn Squared co-founder and instructor Maciej can do it all, from painting environments to futuristic characters, helping to create iconic IPs to directing his own films, it can be a mystery how one person can achieve this! Yet listen to Maciej carefully and heed his teachings and you’ll notice a recurring theme of devotion to the details and pushing quality. This is done by appreciating and decoding that which has come before or already exists. From how overgrowth affects nature for the Last of Us, knowing how tech is manufactured and assembled when creating props for film or replicating traditional animation techniques in 3D Maciej taps into all that is traditional and proven and deploys it digitally, expertly.

Futuristic Character Design with Maciej Kuciara

Traditional Nature

Tyler Smith: A Stylish Engine

Traditional Thinking: Using Nature as the ultimate reference.

Tyler Smith is a highly proficient senior games artist who makes stunning real-time environments in Unreal Engine. From assets to effects, Tyler captures his imagination and creates worlds by taking advantage of the smart bit of tech that is Unreal Engine. Being a hyper-expert in 3D, Tyler can get the maximum from all the assets and tools required for his creations, and the reason he excels at this is thanks to his appreciation of nature. From getting a color palette, or how an environment behaves in different seasons all are done thanks to a deep and analytical observation of natural processes. This allows Tyler to effortlessly switch between stylized worlds, as we do in his Learn Squared course, to the realistic splendor of the environments he helped to create in Ghosts of Tsushima using the same workflow. Which shows how powerful observing and analyzing your subject matter can be.

Stylized Environments with Tyler Smith

Traditional Forms

Wouter Gort: Giving Characters Their Props

Traditional Thinking: Grounding Concepts with Real World Functionality.

Wouter’s workflow is a great celebration of digital art and all the brilliant possibilities it can conjure up. Wouters proficiency is such that depending on the project he will deploy either 2D, 3D, or all of the above! His Character and Prop work is striking and full of personality, and it’s the traditional thinking from Wouter that weld all the aspects of his creations together. So whether it’s a robot, cyberpunk badass, vehicle, or prop Wouter ensures everything is grounded by tapping into existing examples from tech to high-end fashion, whatever the project needs there is something to base it on to ensure each concept is relatable, grounded, and amazing. And this is precisely what is showcased in his Learn Squared course.

Designing Better Characters with Wouter Gort

Learning from The Masters

Greg Rutkowski: Painting Like The Masters

Traditional Thinking: Deep studies, Painting Traditionally, Obsession Over the Fundamentals.

Greg Rutkowski’s legendary digital paintings are a joy to behold. They are jaw-dropping and employ a traditional feel that echoes those of the old masters.

Greg is able to do this thanks to a deep understanding of traditional painting and a strong analytical process that helps him decode how and why old masters employed specific techniques, with the tools they used. This enabled a seamless transition from traditional painting to digital and seeing the benefits of both. And in his course Paint Like The Masters, Greg taps into this traditional thinking to ensure students are able to paint masterpieces whilst developing their fundamentals in light, color, value, composition, and understanding how the old masters did what they did. You can hear more about how Greg did this by listening to this episode of our podcast.

Paint Like The Masters with Greg Rutkowski

Digital Traditons

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Tran Nguyen: From Traditional to Digital

Traditional Thinking: Enhancing traditional illustrations with digital tools.

Tran is a unique case in this article as she almost exclusively creates her art with traditional media. And she has probably used almost every canvas there is. From paper to fabric and book covers to giant murals on buildings, Tran’s ability to capture and dive deep into her experiences allows her to express captivating illustrations as a professional painter and illustrator. Working traditionally with no undo function enhances an artists’ decision-making and creates an almost 6th sense of knowing what different mediums will do and behave. Yet Tran has also embraced digital tools into her workflow to enrich her traditional process even further by using photoshop to quickly iterate sketches and test out compositions. This ensures all of her time is spent where it matters most! Learn how she does it and makes a living off it in her Learn Squared course.

Freelance Illustration with Tran Nguyen

Sculpting Traditions

Arsen Asyrankulov: Metal Gear Sculptures

Traditional Thinking: Using digital tools to create a traditional look.

Arsen’s visceral work is a must-see! Working primarily in ZBrush and rendering in Blender Cycles Arsen has discovered a robust and easy to access workflow that is intended to not only help create art as efficiently as possible but also to really tap into all that inspires him. From imprinting his own imagination into his sculpts via an appreciation of form through sculpture, Arsen creates his digital creations as if they were to exist in reality and is in the process of turning his sculpts into the traditional medium of metal. So whether you create in a traditional medium or a digital one, it is possible for both realms to feed into each other and even exist in both as Arsen has shown.

Organic Sculpting with Arsen Asyrankulov

System Updates

Tim Zarki: Designing Systems

Traditional Thinking: Deconstructing systems and building them back up.

Art takes many forms yet adapting traditional methods and theories always leads to better designs. And designer extraordinaire Tim Zarki not only lives and breathes great design but also teaches it in our Industrial Design Foundations course. Highly adept at creating stunning products in CAD software or even the almighty Blender, Tim has a deep appreciation and knowledge of materials, manufacturing processes, and design theory to the point where he also uses it in the realms of motion design, procedural animations, and creating systems. And it is these systems that perhaps are the lowest common denominator of a process in nature or otherwise, and understanding these means the creative possibilities are endless!

Industrial Design Foundations with Tim Zarki

Traditional Observations

Aaron Limonick: Sketching Reality

Traditional Thinking: Extracting key elements from the subject matter.

Aaron’s course Sketching Anything celebrates and nurtures one of the most fundamental and timeless creative mediums – sketching. And he has been able to translate traditional pen and paper sketching through to photoshop without losing any of the serendipity offered by traditional mediums. But what really makes his sketches pop is the almost magical way he can translate an environment into its key elements and display them on-screen in a way that gives the original scene even more added charm. Through studying his subject matter and exploiting shape language is how Aaron makes this work, and what he also teaches in his course.

Sketching Anything with Aaron Limonick

Traditional Reductions

Patrick O’Keefe: Beautiful Reduction

Traditional Thinking: Representing the real world in reduced form.

Patrick O’keefe’s illustrations are digital masterpieces and he is able to capture the soul of a moment or place by representing it through the lens of reduction. Whether it’s for Art Directing Acadamy Award Winning movies, personal work, or creating a brilliant course, Patrick’s magic lies in being able to appreciate what it is that makes his subject stand out. Whether it’s shape, light, color, composition, or just an overall mood. These are all injected into his art from real-world references and travels and an obsession to diving deep into improving his craft and workflow.

2D Sequence Illustration with Patrick O’Keefe

So it leaves us asking: what does your traditional thinking look like?

And will it still prove to be the best fuel for creativity as technology advances?


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