Educating students in the discipline of digital art to a professional standard has generally proven difficult. In an effort to understand the problem, a first-year undergraduate modelling course cohort was observed. Some students in this course progressed from being novices to acquiring proficiency during the nine-week term of the course. Computer Graphics (CG) modelling professionals evaluated student work to confirm their progress. Traditional models of proficiency development expect that proficiency is dependent on the investment of significant time on discipline- related tasks. The results of this investigation show that the transition from a novice level of understanding to that of proficiency can be rapid. Earlier models emphasize the importance of long-term memory and pattern-matching to developing proficiency. For the field of digital art, data gathered in this study do not support long-term memory or pattern matching as a principal contributing factor to the development of proficiency. Instead, it suggests that knowledge of what a professional standard is, in combination with important threshold concepts, leads to proficiency.