Hi! I'm Ricardo Ow, currently a JR Art Director working on children's 3D animation. I've been working as a professional artist for games and entertainment for over 12 years now and freelance as an illustrator when the right project comes along at the right time.
I personally love the fantasy and sci-fi genre so having a creative career in games and animation has been pure joy for me.
I've always loved to draw, and had a passion for video games, comics, and animation since I was young, so becoming a professional artist in entertainment has always been a dream of mine. I started my art career as a 3D character modeler working on sports titles at Electronic Arts for FIFA and NHL and then transitioned to concept and production art on mobile games and recently making the move into the animation industry.
Depending on the intention behind the piece in question, the process for its creation and the workflow for it differs slightly. In general, though, I suppose the most important thing I consider based on your question is figuring out what the reason is for its creation in the first place and how it will be seen and consumed (3D? 2D? animation? illustration?). Once you have a good understanding of its purpose and its role, this will give you the beginnings of a road map to how to get there.
To elaborate further, if its a character I need to design for a game or a show, I would first need to figure out what role this character needs to play before I can design it successfully. Is the character the hero or the villain? Is it a supporting character? What is the demographic of our audience? What kind of feeling or impression does this character need to convey and how does he support the narrative of the greater story or universe? etc. These questions all need to be considered before I can confidently create anything.
"Game artist" is a very broad term in itself, depending on what kind of game artist you are, the tools that you use will be quite different. For example, a Concept Artist or Designer will most likely need to be familiar with Photoshop as its the industry standard for image-making. If you are a 3d modeler/texture/surfacing artist you will need to be familiar with Substance Painter, Maya, Zbrush, etc. The tools and instruments you use really depends on your role and the type of game you are creating.
For myself, there isn't a single day that I don't use Photoshop at work so I would say that is an invaluable tool, but besides stating the obvious, I would say Youtube and Pinterest are great for references and learning; truly amazing and convenient resources available to artists, and for free.
Good question. I feel that creative careers whether it be digital art, writing, music are getting cheaper and more accessible than ever before with the emergence of online learning and training. Anybody with enough passion, determination, focus, and guidance can build a solid career in whatever they choose. With that said, there has never been so much competition, so you have to outwork and outlast many others to make it as a professional, this industry is truly a marathon and not a sprint.
I would love to see a future with more stories and influences from voices that aren't often heard. I think this could really add variety and flavor to the stories of our world when it's not just dominated by the privileged or the mainstream perspective. We live in such a polarized world today that some empathy and understanding of other perspectives could go a long way in helping us heal the divide and I feel the stories we consume through multimedia will be an important place to start.
Ideas and stories don't just come to us out of the blue or from a vacuum, they come from living life and being open-minded to new experiences. Books, movies, music, song, poetry, comics, cartoons, plays, traveling, hiking, falling in love, getting your heartbroken, all of it; soak it all in and from the emotions and experiences and lessons you take in, reinterpret them through your unique perspective and express that through your art. Never stop learning and improving and you'll always have something to say and images to create.
I think the secret to good communication is clarity and authenticity. What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in. To know what you need to leave out and what to leave is determined by the intention and honesty of your message or feeling you're trying to express, and this is much harder than it sounds.