Alright I guess I'm gonna make another rant, and this one's been bugging me for the longest time. And I'm going to be as BLUNT as I will be and not sugar coat anything I'm about to say.
Often do I hear things like:
"what custom brushes do you use"
"how do you achieve this blur/ focus effect"
"how did you get the colors to go this way and that"
"what technique or computer program did you use"
What I rarely get asked for is:
"What did you study to be more efficient at drawing."
"What is an efficient way to study how to render certain types of materials"
"How do you practice proper lighting when painting?"
Guys I'm just gonna say it now, there's no shortcut to art. I work primarily in digital mediums now but I do have a solid foundation in traditional mediums. I didn't simply go out and buy a $400 tablet and instantly got to where I am today. I use custom brushes and special effects in my pieces, but they only take up less than 3% of the overall work. There's still considerable amount of work that I apply in terms of composition, lighting, rendering, tonal values, colors, and dynamic flow of view. Special effects and custom brushes should not make or break the painting, what does make or break it is your ability as a competent artist to understand and convey your fundamental knowledge of painting and story telling to an audience.
I carry a sketchbook and draw in it everywhere I go, and the best thing about practice is, if you are doing it, you will get better. And if you see something anther artist does. Don't ask how he/she does it and expect an answer in a package. It doesn't work that way. A lot of artists out there including me started at a very young age, we practiced and kept at it no matter what, and that's how we are doing this today.
Whenever you see a piece be it traditional or digital and if the piece has a cool effect to it, and you really really want to replicate that effect, just start experimenting. MAKE MISTAKES! If you got the answer right away for 'this is exactly how I make this effect' (and I'm pretty sure you can google it up), what's the fun in learning? You'd be surprised at the amount of new things you can discover for yourself if you start to experiment, most likely what you sought after in the first place may not even end up being the thing you wanted.
You only benefit yourself from practicing, and often practicing the right way.
You want to learn how to be more efficient in human anatomy? Buy books on anatomy, go to life drawing classes and apply what you've learned from the books, practice, and repeat. Carry a sketchbook from you and draw anything you see.
You want to be more efficient at compositions? Watch movies and study how they place shots. Read a lot of graphic design magazines and pay extra attention on how they lay out sections of words vs. an image. Look at cubism, photography, and abstract paintings.
You wanna be more creative with your designs in terms of characters, creatures, and environments? Be a nerd and read the encyclopedia, read up stuff on different cultures and their history. Look up different religions and their history.
Wanna design cool and practical looking mech? Look at real military and civilian industrial hardware.
At the end of the day, I believe that a strong artist should focus less on custom brushes, special effect shortcuts. Yes you can get a custom brush on painting hair, yes you can get a custom brush that'll draw boulders and rocks in 2 seconds, and yes you can get a brush that draws 20 dicks in one stroke. A wise man once said "custom brushes will only make you faster at rendering, not a better artist".
So go out there and practice, make a lot of mistakes, and become a walking encyclopedia. Because it'll be 100x better than simply asking for a shortcut.