Being a Game Artist
In a game artist’s role description often the game part is ignored. A game artist’s role is (or at least should be) to not only create, but also implement the pretty images and models they create.
You, the Game Artist
You are the one responsible of all the visuals in your game. It includes characters, environments, visual FX, animations, user interface, tutorials… All of it. Even if you are only assigned a part of the art (e.g. just UI) it’s still a good idea to keep an understanding of all of the art in the game for consistency purposes.
In order for you to make the game look like what you’ve mocked up in Photoshop, you need to know the game engine’s, and the target platform’s, tools, capabilities and limitations.
You need to be the one who takes your mockups and puts them in place using the engine as they should be. It’s not the programmer’s or designer’s job – after all they likely lack the artistic capability to do it anyway. So don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty in order to learn how games are actually made (SPOILER: it’s not just messy 1GB badly named PSD files in Dropbox).
Don’t be afraid of breaking stuff in the game when you’re first studying the tools. You can always revert via version control. Experiment. See what the knobs, sliders and buttons do. Once you know, you can use it in your advantage when need be.
Don’t be a fool with your files. Name them properly and always in English, use numbering, and never include the status of the file in the name (for example environment_final). Remove unnecessary legacy sketches and reference pictures from your work files, and organize the layers/groups so that other people can go in and understand how the file is sorted. You’re usually not the only one down the path to work with the files, even if you were the one creating it in the first place.
To be a great game artist, it’s not enough to draw pretty pictures and models. You also need technical understanding on how things are put in place, and ultimately you should be the one doing it. When YOU do it, other (usually non-art-driven) people don’t have to, and you get a better artistic outcome – and a happier team.
Or if you don’t, you’re gonna end up needing a Jack.