Doubt and the 3D Artist

A complex and damaging relationship

Doubt is what happens when you are aware of your own abilities (or think you are) and know where you want to go (or think you do) and you see a gap between those two places.

The gap seems huge most of the time for one simple reason; we tend to underestimate our own abilities and over-estimate how skilled we need to be to complete objectives.

Any person with a smidge of ambition will have felt doubt at some point. By their very nature artists feel doubt often, and I believe that 3D Artists feel it even more acutely than most.

As a 3D artist you have two sets of abilities that you have to keep sharp; technical abilities and creative or artistic abilities. That’s at least two points of failure without delving very far into the problem, and two points where you’re likely to see a gap between you and ‘there’.

Examining the situation even further we also know that in order to find work we need to be able to pitch, work to a schedule, play well with the other people in a team, constantly improve, learn on the job, make changes, accept criticism gracefully, and somehow still survive as a human being. These are more points where we can see ourselves as lacking very easily in the face of how good we think we need to be.

That’s a lot of doubt to carry around and its about time we addressed it.

Doubt in Your Work


Doubting your work is the easiest type of doubt to spot. Fortunately it’s also the easiest to fix.

You can find this doubt whenever you look at a job online, whether contract or full time, skim through the requirements and decide not to apply.

You can find this doubt every time the words “Here’s my profile, but its a little out of date” or “but I have some other cool stuff I’m working on too” escape from your lips.

You can find this doubt when you watch a film, animation or trailer and think that you could ‘never be that good’.

It also likes to show up in class, or at work, when you look at the other people around you doing the same sort of job you are and feel jealous because they’re ‘better’. Or scared in case they notice you aren’t as good.

I hate doubt.


It probably has its uses; to keep us from becoming arrogant jerks for example. I still hate it.

Doubt never really goes away you see, you have to fight it every time it pokes up its little head to say hi. Work doubt in particular likes to pop up every time you’re approaching a new level of skill or you want to step forward and improve yourself.

The best thing to do for this doubt is to freak out, worry, whimper if you must or if thats your style, hide, protest, deflect, anything you like, and then do the thing you’re freaking out about anyway.

Do it anyway.


The world will not end if you submit a proposal for that job you think may be at the edge of your skill levels. It will also not end if you don’t apologize for your portfolio before anyone has a chance to look at it. It definitely won’t end if you decide to go ahead and try an effect you saw in a movie once, because you can, and because it’s something you admire and wish you could do.

Frankly, the world doesn’t care what you do and it won’t care any more or less if you freak out about it first.

But the people you approach might care. The bid you submit may just wind up being exactly what that client is looking for. Your portfolio may have a piece in it that’s Just Right for the person viewing it. You may be able to pull off that effect that held you in awe after all.

Doubt will do everything in its power to prevent you from trying anything that might ‘harm’ you or force you to grow. The only way to win is to recognize it, tip your hat, and then do whatever the heck you want to anyway.

The Other Kinds of Doubt


Originally I was going to write a separate section for each of the 3 main types of doubt (I like 3s this month) and then explore how to deal with it. All very civilized and orderly.

That flew out of the window and I tore up the outline as soon as I remembered I don’t give a fig about orderly with regards to emotions. This is war and its not civilized. I feel strongly about this topic because I have doubted, do doubt, and will continue to doubt for most of my professional life.

And I know you have, do and will as well.

I also know that doubting your work is the least of your worries when it comes to this particular D. You can also doubt much more harmful things, like yourself. Or that things will get better and you’ll improve.

These doubts are harder to recognize and harder still to fight, because often it slips into your mind quietly and finds a small corner from which to say “I can’t” or “I don’t know”. And you’ll never even notice it’s there.

Unless you’re very fortunate and have people around you that will call you out on your own bullshit. Possibly even force you into some soul searching.

Doubting your work will lead to not putting yourself forward, or under-bidding. That’s harmful enough.

Doubting yourself will lead to those things as well as the growing certainty that it’s all you deserve, that you’re doing the best you can (even when you’re not), and you’re never going to make it.

Doubting that things will get better and that you can improve leads you further down the track to giving up entirely, deciding that dreams are for other people, and finding a steady safe job that you probably hate just to pay the bills. Then on the weekend you try to forget work, run errands, and obliterate all the quiet moments where the other voice in your head, hope / faith / belief / strength / whatever you feel like calling it, whispers “What if you tried again?”

Doubt is a horrible, insidious, bitch of a problem. The only way to win is to find it, and do what you were going to do in spite of it.

The only way to win is to find it. And do what you want anyway.

Find it. Do what you want anyway.

In case you were wondering, I’m talking to you. The wonderful person reading this. The one that I’m fairly sure has doubts of your own.

Find it. Do anyway.

Or lose.

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