I know that this subject was argued millions of times and my research showed me the same answer every single time which is “You do not have to be good at drawing to be a 3d artist, but it helps if you learn how to draw” But there is a time and job finding aspect and a little experiment I conducted on myself without knowing it.
First of all let me clarify the word “drawing” here. The continuation of the drawing word in this article means drawing properly, with shadows and techniques and references etc. When I say “drawing” if you think like sketching a few quick stuff before your 3d work for concept art and ideas, I do not mean that. And by the way those quick sketches is a great practice and will put you in the right direction fast.
As I said in the beginning drawing is not mandatory to be a 3d artist but it is a plus. Especially for sculpting and character modeling it helps a lot. To draw characters you need to learn/know anatomy just like you need it for 3d characters.
Time and Jobs
So maybe the real question should be “Can I be a successful 3d sculptor if I can’t draw?” The answer is still the same but here they go hand in hand. If you draw well you can transfer those skills to digital art. If you can sculpt well then you can draw or at least learn it fast. Because it is not just about how good you draw or model, but about how good and correct the proportions are, how well the posture looks and feels.
Therefore after thinking on it and doing research I realized that it is more about the time you spend on the activity rather then drawing. It is obvious that you do not have to draw to be a 3d artist. But it will be beneficial to start learning it right away. However, do you have the time to learn it? Especially in the beginning there are a lot of subjects to work on like modeling, layout, lighting, materials, camera/photography, animation, compositing even the software itself! While you are spending time on the main stuff, can you also learn how to draw? Is it better to spend time on learning the primary skills and fundamentals of 3d or learning a secondary skill like drawing? If you ask me go for the primary skills first.
Another aspect is about finding a job in the industry. If you can draw you are more likely to be hired (especially when you are a new graduate who learned how to draw but not 3d). After all it is a skill that improves the artist both technically and artistically so it’ll put you one step in front of the one that can’t draw. There are also studios all around the world that does 2d animation so who knows maybe you can be a 2d animator if you know how to draw well. Or maybe you can become a storyboard artist, maybe even be both a 3d and a previs artist. I had an opportunity like that a couple years ago where I lost a potential job because I didn’t know how to draw.
I am also learning how to draw. The reason is as a kid I always liked to draw and paint, never got bored of it. But after I grew up I just simply stopped. Now, for the past two years I decided to properly learn how to draw with a pencil and a paper, because I wanted to have a new hobby and do something that isn’t related to a computer or a phone or a tablet not because I wanted to get better at 3d. I found some tutorials and websites to guide me with the fundamentals, I try to replicate other artists drawings and draw still life images. When I learned the basics, techniques and practiced a lot, I automatically saw the benefits it gave me for my 3d creations. Before drawing I’ve never cared much about how my objects caught the shadows in my renders. But since I saw how important shadow is in drawing, that helped me with light positioning and shadow tweaking in 3d. Also drawing helped me with using perspective better and camera positioning as well as setting better scene layouts.
I learned to draw (and am still learning/improving) as a hobby never thinking that it will help me as a 3d artist. Though, I came to realize that it actually does help a lot. So this was like an experiment that I conducted on myself without knowing it. In consequence of the remarks and ideas of various people and my experiment; I can say with confidence that you do not need to be good at drawing to be a good 3d artist, but if you have the time you should learn it.