Do I Have to Be Able to Draw to Be a Digital Artist?
As Ed Catmull said, "Every studio encounters people who think they can become an artist without developing those skills. Wrong." The answer to the question varies based on the background, training, and bias of the individual art director or animator answering the question. I have met and worked with many really good artists, some who are also digital artists. I like working with the ones who can draw.
So, here's my answer to the question "Do I have to be able to draw to be a digital artist?" From where I sit as an art director, the short, medium, and long answer to that question is: Yes! And the reality is that if you can't draw, someone who can will be feeding you imagery to create. Consequently, the ability to use paper and pen or even crayons to pre-visualize design and animation ideas via diagrams, scribbles, and pictures is absolutely essential. Without some pre-visualization, digital artists wander in search of a place to start. Drawing creates a common language that unites you as the artist with your art director, producer, and client. For this reason alone, these important people want to work with digital artists who can draw.
Your success as a digital artist will be empowered or limited by the relative depth of your mastery of the basic principles and elements of traditional art and design. Dangerous fools are ruled by their ignorance of principle and inability to see and perceive the world around them with artists' eyes. Perhaps the most powerful result of our devotion to the basics and the discipline of the artist's way is the change in our perceptive abilities. The artist Delacroix said it best: "The Source of Genius is imagination alone, the refinement of the senses that sees what others do not see, or sees them differently."
In the final analysis, computer and technology tools have not really revolutionized the creative process. Only the mystical, immeasurable, imprecise, and nonlinear realm of the mind and imagination can do that. A fool with a computer is indeed a more dangerous fool. However, a computer in the hands of a master of principle can be used to create visions of reality and possibility beyond our wildest imaginations. As artists in the 21st century, our mission is as it has always been: to not only entertain, but also to inspire and bring the world to amazement and wonder again.