Knowing a 3d package like Maya,Softimage, 3ds max etc. is hard but not enough. What a good drawing can do is make your life a LOT easier. Imagine how much time can it take to create Something like the image u see on the right made by Meats Meins Named The Last Of The Leaves.Now, imagine that you build all that without any reference ,just by mixing 3d shapes together and now you or your Boss (which is most of the times the worse case :D) don't like it!!! Waste of time? Maybe not always but surely not what you wanted to achiev
e right? So that's one of the cases where a reference drawing would come in handy and save you a bunch of time.
Apart from the fact that your project may end up as something else than expected , the reference images can make the modeling process or even the animation
and rigging process much faster, easier and effective. There are many tutorials out there about using reference images in your animation package to build a model upon that. But modeling is not the only process where these magic images can help you. Expressions, posture, gestures and many more things should be drawn first and then rigged or animated.
And lastly, the design of a character using hand drawing ,photoshop or any other way of drawing you prefer is much more fun and creative. A lot of times my first idea w
as changed many times till i could come up with something i liked.
So, reference images, photos,moodboards,model sheets,concept art and all those sorts of things will help you become much better and professional animator.Don't Underestimate Them!!!
Image used "The Last Of The Leaves" Copyrighted under Meats Meins in 2005