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I'm curious to hear some thoughts on this and how much overlap you think there is.

I started out as a modeler/generalist but before I got to a professional level I switched to FX. I've been working in the industry now for a year as a Houdini FX artist at a big studio. FX can be very challenging and that part is fun and great, but I am yearning for more design and creative work vs being the guy making huge technical setups that take weeks and weeks. I would like to also work from home instead of going to a studio for 10 hours every day.

Luckily my modeling exp will transfer easily to this modern world of concept design (think: people like maciej, ash thorpe, jama jurabev) but I am worried about FX. Do you see it helping at all? Is it a bad decision to begin to try to make this switch out of a successful career already?

My skills would be as such: (lets assume 7/10 means I can do it at a studio and be paid)

3D modeling - 6/10 (Maya/Max)
Lighting and Rendering - 7/10 (mantra and vray)
Painting - 4/10
Nuke - 7/10
Houdini - 9/10

I would have to learn Substance, Modo or maybe just go right into Fusion, Keyshot, ESPECIALLY drawing and painting skills have to go up..and I guess id still love to keep using houdini for some stuff even if I am creating 2d concept images.

Its hard to formulate a concise question, but im hoping i can put all this info out and just hear peoples thoughts.

I feel I am a year of intense studying away to just put my work out there and hope I can freelance from home as a concept designer, and while its scary to leave my successful houdini fx artist career i am 25 years old so its not that bad. I would need to focus on drawing skills the most. I just dont want to throw away the last years of my life of learning houdini ya know? I wonder if theres any concept guys out there that do use houdini for stuff..

Thanks guys. Maybe someone has already made the switch and can let me know whats up.
If you really want to and have saved up enough money then I'd take that year off and study towards your goal. You're right, as a concept designer, your drawing skills have to go up. Especially those traditional fundamentals are important. If you want my advice, buy both books by Scott Robertson and study them until you feel more comfortable with your drawing and perspective sketching skills. This won't take you the whole year, so make sure to learn about anatomy, too. And pictorial composition. Your Maya skills could be useful for quick environment layouts.

In the end it's all about you, if you feel like you can't see yourself in a future as an FX artist and want to switch gears, then go for it, you don't have anything to lose, every skill you gain will help you.

Realistically, you'd have to put insane hours into that year to be able to compete as a freelancer. I'd advise against that, your health is more important than learning 16 hours a day.

The rest is up to you.
Just don't shoot yourself in the foot. Begin learning/improving your skills while you are still working at your FX job and then, when you already have a secure foot in the water and you feel it's time, make your move.
Be patient and smart and it should be fine.

OP here, I am in fact trying to learn on the side in the meantime. I have been drawing consistently for 3 months now after work and on weekends, maybe missed only a couple of days. Ive started with figures though, portraits really interest me so faces first and I think once i can draw a good likeness of a figure with volume and not like a photocopy then ill move into scott robertson and try to do guns, cars, aircrafts and then finally environments before I even start photoshop.

The biggest thing for me is that the better you get at something like fx, the less you do of it. Like Im the lead fx guy at my studio now, so i do the hardest shit and then manage the other people.. The hardest shit is all pretty similar just using tougher math, and then i have to stay late to help people with easy stuff. I cant see FX ever being done successfuly from home by a single artist.

And frankly the hardest shit in FX becomes more math oriented and logical thinking, and I just wanna make shit that looks cool.

It feels like with concept design, the best concept designer just does more concept design even closer to the director and such. Theres no glass ceiling because you sell your vision of an idea. Ive been an FX guy for a year and I can already see that in 2 years of this, i would be more valuable doing 1 hard effect and teaching 20 people to do dust and destruction the rest of my time.

The scary part though is of course, not everyone gets to be vitaly bulgarov and im already good at FX with experience in a very very scarce field. If I switch, do I get to design badass shit for the biggest movies from home, or do I get stuck doing 50 versions of a costume for a small studio?

Thats the goal, patience and intelligence. THank you guys.Ill continue to consider all the possibilities while improving in my off time, and then a year from now I might risk it all.
Check the bottom of the sticky tutorial in /ic all the tutorial links are concept artists...

The software you want that is hot and free right now is krita, don't cheap out get a large wacom tablet on kijiji for like 10% retail.

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