Should I go to School for 3D? 

A bit about myself first 

Once again this is a question I often see on 3D groups being asked by young people / artists that are thinking of getting into the 3D business or any of the digital arts. Often artists struggled through school, diagnosed with Dyslexia or some other learning disability that made it rough on them. School for them, and my self, was not a good memory and certainly wasn’t easy. 

“It might surprise you with the answer I will give to this question based on my history with school.” 

It might surprise you with the answer I will give to this question based on my history with school. 

I never did well at all in school, I wasn’t able to read and write and was finally tested in junior high in grade 9 and was told that I had dyslexia. At that point no one knew what that meant other then I was not going any where in life because I wasn’t that bright. I didn’t excel at anything in school, not because I wasn’t good at anything but those things were not something there were courses on. For this reason, and just not showing up, I failed grade 8 and had to repeat it. I never received all my credits for grade 9 but was pushed on through the system where I attended less and less. I probably was given a couple credits in high school as there was a fantastic art program. I how ever really didn’t give that much effort by this time as I just didn’t care about school any more.

At around 17 years of age I got a job in a restaurant as a bus boy and once 18 moved onto being a waiter. I was now making far more money then any one I knew as there were lots of tips back in those days, I thought I had it made. Well in fact it really isn’t much money at all compared to what it takes to raise a family or buy a house, it just felt that way. There was no way I was going back to school how ever as it left me scared and frankly I still couldn’t read and write that well. As a waiter I really didn’t have to so I didn’t care. 

At 21 I decided to sell my motor cycles and travel Europe for as long as I could, turned out to be a year and a quarter I was gone in total and had a great time. By this point in my life I really didn’t like the stress and working hours of the restaurant business but didn’t have anything else I could do that would pay as well. After Europe I started to look for other options. Of course I looked into just about every MLM business out there which are a waist of time other than a financial company that was setup that way. They would help you get your insurance and mutual funds licenses and you could make money without having to deal with the multi level part of it. I self taught myself on both the tangled mess of life insurance and the complexities of mutual funds and managed to pass both of the tests with flying colours without any one teaching me anything, I just did it on my own. 

So how did I teach my self two complex industries when I couldn’t read and write that well. Here is the thing, I knew I didn’t learn the way others do. I can’t read a chapter from a text book, write a test and then forget it. My brain doesn’t work that way, neither do many others. So to do this I had to learn a way that I could read and absorb information first before I could even begin to understand insurances. I have all sorts of tricks I use still to this day. I start at the bottom of the page, skim over what each paragraph is talking about moving up the page. Then I start from the top and skim back down trying to get the over all gist of what is being talked about. Then I go back to the top and start reading in detail and at the time was really struggling with words as I don’t see words, I see letters when I read so it is a slow process. The interesting thing is, because I need to work this way I find that I often get more out of it then some one that can read, regurgitate and forget. I have to absorb, it is the only way it goes in at all. If I don’t understand something fully and deeply it never goes in. 

“Few people were in the business and companies were throwing money at it.”

Fast forward to 30 years old. The financial sector really wasn’t for me, I’m an artist and a problem solver and I really hate suits and ties and people that judge you on how flashy your car is. I own one suit that gets used for the odd wedding and unfortunately funerals and I drive a Sentra, don’t get me wrong, I would love a nicer car, I just don’t judge someone on what they drive.

I needed something else and had a friend I grew up with that got into 3D when a chrome sphere was about all that you could do. He was doing well creating flying logos for corporate board meetings and the like in 3D Studio DOS 3 and talked me into going back to school for 3D. I finally saw it as a way to use my artistic capabilities and make money doing it. Few people were in the business and companies were throwing money at it. 

I decided to take the program that my friend had taken at a large college in Toronto. The program was a joke, no one there knew anything about 3D and after complaints they finally found us a 3D teacher that was supposed to be fantastic. Turns out many of us already could do work better than this clown and to boot he was a complete ass hole, we even had to physically restrain one student from laying a beating on him. Since I was a mature student I simply used the program as a way to get access to computers and connections to those that could get me what I wanted, as it turns out one of those people has become a long time friend and one of my greatest allies.  

The interesting thing is as soon as I graduated from my program they asked me to teach it. I turned down full time and taught there on and off as a part time professor and finally ended up at Humber College in Toronto as a full time professor since 2008 and a couple years before that as part time. 

“I how ever suggest that most budding artists attend a good school and here’s why.”

So should you go to school for 3D?

Well you might be able to tell from the very long winded preface that I’m not that fond of school. I how ever suggest that most budding artists attend a good school and here’s why. It isn’t because I’m a professor, I don’t make any more or less if you go to school or not. It is because of several other reasons. 

The first reason is that you will meet lots of new people. Many that are graduating a year to three ahead of you. All of these people are potential connections to get your first job in the industry. They are all people to learn from that are either at the same level or just a head of you. They have all run into the same issues and made the same mistakes. This is very hard to find on line and it is just about impossible to develop meaningful friend ships with them.

You will have access to professional faculty and a program designed to teach you through the process and helps ensure that you are getting the knowledge that you need to be able to get your first job. This of course assumes that you have done your home work and found good school that is on the cutting edge and not just trying to make a buck. I’ll do a plug for Humber now. We are a program that has been design by industry veterans and has had a huge amount of success with our past students. Many have won awards nation wide and our program is always changing and staying current. We also have a fantastic group of professionals that our faculty and leaders. This is what you need to find for your self if you want to be successful at school.

It was heart breaking for me to give an honest review of her work.

I can tell you a story of a not so successful school experience with a woman that decided to go back to school like I did as a mature student. She choose a university in the US that was a four year program and was very expensive. She had followed my work all long and manged to get the guts up to ask me for a review of her portfolio telling me she graduated with honors. I have to say, I didn’t know what to say after seeing her work, but had to be honest. There was no way she was going to be hired any where in the 3D business. She hadn’t even been taught some of the most basic principals or technology that you must know. Her work that had received A’s was not as good as the work that our first year, first semester third projects were creating on average. She had spent all her saving trying to learn a new profession from people that had no idea what they were doing. It was heart breaking for me to give an honest review of her work. Moral of the story, do you home work on the schools that you might like to attend as they are not all created equal. 

Good faculty make all the difference to a program. If the faculty of a program are not dedicated to it then the program will suffer. Finding this information out just takes a little leg work, don’t ask the school or the faculty about them selves, research them on the web. If you look me up you will find lots of information about what I do, how long I have been in the business and how I’m generally considered within the business. It isn’t always as cut and dry as that how ever. We have several faculty that don’t have an on line presence at all but are fantastic faculty with long records in the business, how ever it probably isn’t hard to find people that have taken the programs that you are interested in and ask them how it served them, how ever make sure that you are asking only those that put the time and effort in and left the program to a position in 3D. It isn’t that the opinion of those that didn’t do well and did not attain a position in 3D are invalid how ever I have seen a fair number of students that don’t do the work, put in little effort or even cheat and then complain that the program wasn’t up to standards when it fact it was they that put them selves in that position. 

“The school it self must also be supporting the faculty and students”

Although the faculty are not responsible for finding you work we all have connections in the business meaning that we know what companies want and we know who is hiring and are often in a position to point students in the right directions. Sometimes they might also give you a direct reference but only if you have been an exceptional student. I have been burned in the past giving reference to students that were a little to much to handle in production and it hurt my reputation with that company. 

The school it self must also be supporting the faculty and students in a way that allows the program to develop and explore new possibilities as trends in the industry change. With out that support and continual development the faculty will find it hard to deliver what they know to be beneficial to the students. We are very lucky at Humber to have that sort of environment with a dean and associate dean that are dedicated to the success of the students. It really does make all the difference.


In the end it all really comes down to the student. No school can force you to learn or put the time and effort in that is required to excel at the craft and there for be in a position to be noticed by companies that are in need of new talent. 

There is the odd person that has the drive and capabilities to do it on their own and be able to make the connections that are required to get you foot in the door. I would say that percentage is very low compared to those that will flourish within a structured and well developed environment that is designed to gain you those skills.


For over 2 decades, I have been recognized internationally by the 3D animation industry as technical director and rigging specialist for clients worldwide, my work spans feature films, TV series, AAA game titles, broadcast television, aerospace, medical and tools and pipeline development.