Recently I was asked to help with a thread/document that wanted to provide a bunch of quick answers to common questions, a noble cause no doubt; however, on further reflection I think this sort of thing sometimes does more harm than good.
The problem with absolute rules, or explaining solutions to common problems with sound-bite type phrases, is that you almost never get the reason why. The root of the problem is rarely explained. For instance, in the not so distant past, artists used blue specular maps for skin. Many artists would tell others to do this or would see this and then copy it; yet few really understood why, so it’s a phenomena that carries on to this day even though the reason for doing it is typically outdated and irrelevant. What we end up with is this telephone game of people regurgitating information without understanding.
When I write tutorials, I try explaining why things happen rather than how to fix them. The waviness thread is a prime example of this. I could have wrote a list of common problems and solutions, but that would not have encouraged people to be creative, to experiment, to think, to understand the cause so that they will have a solid foundation on which to solve other problems in the future.
Even when I’m pretty sure what I write makes sense, I don’t think it should be taken as absolute. As soon as you take someone’s word as absolute, you turn off that part of your brain that is responsible for critical thinking. I’m constantly trying to learn, I am often proven wrong and generally, when I look back on my older work, whether it’s art or tutorials I’ve written, I find a lot of mistakes. If you really want to know how something works, find as many sources as possible to study, and perhaps most importantly, test the theories you read about and see how they apply in reality.
My advice to anyone looking for quick fixes, looking for simple rules to complex topics, is to find your curiosity. If people take anything from the articles/threads I write, or articles/tutorials written by anyone, I hope it is inspiration to learn more about the topic and the desire to experiment.