Twitter member @BatSoup_ tweeted at Visual Effects Supervisor and industry veteran Stephane Ceretti asking for any tips or advice on becoming a VFX artist. Stephane replied with this tweet full of nuggets of wisdom:
Learn how movies are made ! Learn how stories are told. Be curious of nature. Take time to look around and see how light behaves at any time of the day or night. Take some photos, look at paintings. Watch a lot of movies and work a lot ! The rest is just tech stuff….
Stephane's IMDB profile proves he knows a thing or two. Any one of the items he mentions in his reply has merit, but perhaps my favorite is to “Take time to look around and see how light behaves at any time of the day or night”. Studying light is an on-going pursuit: how it drapes itself across a room, dances across the surface of the water, how it wraps around and gives volume to an object, etc. Photographers will tell you taking a great photo has less to do with the gear and more to do with understanding how to manipulate light. CG artists can be masters at modelling, texturing and animating objects but if they don't have the right lighting everything falls apart.
The programs artists use can absolutely help speed up processes, but they have yet to replace the hours required to study the material world around us.