So when assigning importance to something, which is more important, the adjective or the noun?
I'm going to flat out tell you that the noun is more important. If you're looking for a "rich spouse" and I give a "rich cake", or tell you a "rich joke", you are NOT going to be satisfied. On the other hand, if I give you a "loving spouse", it will probably meet your needs and satisfy many people.
...and yet, we as artists seem to desperately focus on the adjective part of job descriptions. Specifically VISUAL development. Students in particular drive themselves CRAZY thinking about how to be the best technical painter/draftsperson in the world, all the while ignoring the important part of the job....the development.
Let me tell you my story about where I had the absolute most influence on the look of a final product. A friend of mine was working on an illustration set in a castle. He kept thumbnailing the most generic and boring looking fortifications, and it just wasn't coming together. I took a look at his brief and said, "Have you google searched Bavarian castles from the 15th century?" He looked at me like I had two heads, but did the search, and it gave him EXACTLY what he was looking for. I drew nothing. I painted nothing. I 3d modeled...NOTHING - and I was instrumental to the final look of the product. Development isn't about making pretty pictures, it's about helping the team figure out what something should look like.
I've been working on character designs myself for the last couple of weeks, and I'm using a combination of 3D and photo-bashing. I've literally drawn nothing except some very rough thumbnails to give me ideas...nothing that made it into the final work. What I have done is utilized years of knowledge about celtic armor, clothing and legends to google search everything I needed to make the designs come together. Knowledge is SO MUCH more important than technical ability.
In our industry, the term I hate the most is "concept art", because it uses the WRONG DAMN NOUN. I blame conceptart.org for spreading it, and from what I have gleaned, the term itself came out of video games because "designer" already had a role on the team. I much prefer "entertainment designer" or "visual developer" as job descriptions, because they are much more accurate to what is important. Your job is not to be an "artist". It's to solve problems, and to design solutions, by the quickest and most effective means possible.
"Technical Mastery" gets bandied around a lot, again, mostly by students. I'm not going to lie to you, skill is important...but how the hell do you measure "mastery?" I've been drawing and painting for 8 years, and working professionally in that timeframe for a little over 2....and let me assure you, I am far from technical mastery, and the more I work, the further I realize I am from whatever that means. I'm going to be struggling for technical mastery on the last day of my life I pick up a pencil, pen, stylus or brush. Kruger-Dunning is alive and well - the more I learn, the less I value what I know. There is so much more out there. I remember 2nd year in art school I legitimately thought I was 18 months away from being "good." HAH!
If every wannabe character/environment/vehicle designer spent half the time they spend drawing reading and absorbing history books without pictures, or at least novels, they'd be a hell of a lot more prepared. If they could spend half of that time taking walks and analyzing the things they saw in real life even in their own towns, they would be even better suited for the job.
The next thing after that would be how to "warp" what you see and know into something new and original, but I think I'll make that next week's post.
Thanks for reading! Now go forth and read some history, or some science journals, or some current events!