By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor – DMA @ UPENN
One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is opening doors for my students. At the beginning of each class, I literally unlock the door to the computer lab, turn the lights on, and lead my students in. But in a more meaningful sense, I enjoy being the one (or one of many) who introduces them to a new medium, a new set of tools for creating imagery and telling stories. The part of that experience that is especially gratifying is seeing my students making connections between their respective backgrounds (e.g. illustration, music, graphic design) and this newfound world of 3D modeling and animation.
Last year, during DMA’s Maya sessions at the University of Pennsylvania campus, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach an amazingly diverse group. Among that group, there was the middle-aged illustrator from the midwest, learning a new skill. There was the recent art school graduate with a graphic design degree. There was the home-schooled high-schooler with an interest in visualization. And there was the teenage musician and composer with a talent for digital imagery.
Each person brought a unique sensability and focus to their study of Maya. And I can truly say that by the end, there were just as many unique 3D creations. The characters, environments, and animations they made each reflected a personal vision. And this is what I consider the strength of both the software, Maya, and the type of course I was teaching at DMA. My duty as an instructor was two-fold. First, I introduced students to the basics of the software. This included both the explicit features and the implicit workflow, which is the proper process and sequence for using those features. Secondly, I attempted to build on that foundational and common knowledge by guiding each student to a point where they could begin to use that tool to fulfill a personal interest or vision.
This ends up being the point at which I grow too as a 3D artist and instructor. DMA courses bring together such a variety of students that it ends up being an antidote to the homogeneity common to most 3D classrooms. I learn new things every time I interact with my students. My experience last summer was so gratifying in that respect that I couldn’t turn up the chance to teach again. I look forward to opening doors, turning on lights, and having my students do the same for me.