One of the many questions aspiring game artists ask me is, “do you have any tips for noobs like me?” and while that’s probably an understandable question, there are so many resources available to artists that simply don’t know it’s there. Researching your field on a daily basis is a key to evolving yourself as a game artist.
One of the ways I gained experience in art was simply participating in varioius modding communities for games, such as indiedb or moddb, checking out mod tools such as Bethesda’s series such as Skyrim, or Fallout. There are great online resources to gaining technical knowledge in regards to game art on websites such as http://polycount.comhttp://game-artist.net and http://gameartisans.org
In my experience in learning, traditional art skills are extremely important as well, learning fundamentals and practicing various art forms achieves a greater sense of understanding over form, composition, silhouetting, lighting, from thumbnails to concepts and traditional matte foundations. Texturing is as important so learning traditional paints to achieve a sense of material, the way light reacts to certain materials, and definition is very important.
If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend building a personal library of photo’s (get a camera and start thinking like a photographer) for textures and visual reference. Always work from reference.
There are also some great reference and reading material online, many which I own and study such as Owen Demer’s Digital Texturing & Painting,Photoshop for 3d Artists and Andrew Gahan has a series of books that cover fundamentals of technical implementation of game art through modelling, unwrapping, lightmaps, vertex painting, high to low resolution modeling, baking, lighting systems, ambient occlusion and much more that are used in next generation game modeling – 3ds Max Modeling for Games. Many studios also use Maya, so it is worth learning Maya as well and becoming proficient in various 3d software. Zbrush is also a fantastic tool for high resolution sculptors that implement this tool in their workflow especially with characters, organics and even hard surface details. Scott Spencer has some great books that include Zbrush Advanced
None of these I consider secrets of the trade (I believe personal pipelines are) and I am happy to share these tools with aspiring artists (as I was one as well) and in this competitive industry it is always important to understand everyone is a student, and you will never stop learning. Good luck to you and I hope this motivates and inspires you to push your talents and artistic ability further. Most importantly, remember to never lowball yourself when you get to working in this trade.