Are these the 5 best places for CG artists to live?

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Fancy a change of scenery? Want to expand your horizons and find somewhere new to live? We spoke to CG artists around the world to find out where they considered the best places to live and work. Here's what they had to say.

01. Vancouver

CG artist cities

Vancouver offers the great outdoors and city life all in one place

Fast becoming one of the central hubs of the CG industry, Vancouver offers a high quality of life, explains Ryan Kane. The art director, motion graphics artist and CG generalist, currently working with The Sequence Group, is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland but decided just over a year ago to relocate to Canada.

CG artist cities

Ryan Kane

"I wanted to surround myself with some of the world's best CG artists to continue to learn and hone my skill set," he explains. And he's very glad he made the move. "The number of opportunities and the amount of available work in Vancouver is unbelievable," he enthuses.

"Within a week of arriving I was inundated with work and job offers. Major players like Digital Domain 3.0, Prime Focus, Industrial Light & Magic, Sony and MPC have set up shop permanently in Vancouver, so some of the industry's brightest minds are on my doorstep.

CG artist cities

Vancouver's urban oasis Stanley Park

"The lifestyle and work culture is also completely different to the UK. The fact that 30 minutes after work you could be snowboarding down a mountain or relaxing on a beach in Stanley Park is quite a big contrast with some of the more industrial UK cities I was used to."

The one downside? "Vancouver now holds the undesirable title of most expensive city in North America to live in, ahead of even New York and Los Angeles," Kane cautions.

02. London

CG artist cities

London has one of the most vibrant social scenes for CG artists

In the past decade the UK capital has become on the key hubs of the CG world. Originally from London, Dave Cox studied in Birmingham but decided to return to work as an automotive CG artist. "London has lots of networking events for the CG industry so it is great to meet other artists," he says. "It makes being a CG artist less of a job and more of a social lifestyle."

CG artist cities

Dave Cox

As with Vancouver, cost of living is an issue. "London is incredibly expensive," Cox admits. "It can take the shine of working in such a great city." But the ease of contact with other artists more than makes up for it.

"The fact that the scope of work is so broad, there a lots of job opportunities which is really encouraging as an artist," he stresses. "Having so many studios close together is great for socialising and networking." To find out the best places to meet up with other creatives, check out our Designer's Guide to London.

03. Berlin

CG artist cities

Berlin offers a range of unique opportunities for CG artists - and it's still affordable!

Berlin has become a real hotspot for CG artists during the 2010s, says David Mass, who's worked there since 1991. "Until about five years ago, most larger CG jobs passed the city by," he admits. But now there are a number of established VFX houses in the German capital. "By far the most animation jobs come from internet startups, online games and marketing crossovers."

And the best news? Despite Germany being the economic powerhouse of Europe, it's not ruinously expensive. "The cost of living is so low that it's easy to achive financial independence," says Mass, who's been a guest lecturer and consultant at the Institute of Animation at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg since 2006.

"Berlin offers freedom in some very tangible ways - you can live the way you like," he adds. "There's much less value placed on appearances - independent isn't a fashion in most parts of the city, it's an authentic lifestyle."

04. San Francisco

CG artist cities

San Francisco is so much more than ILM. Image © Mishaal Barrett

3D Artist and creative retoucher Steve Barrett has worked around the world - including the US, UK and Middle East - but there's a special place reserved in his heart for San Francisco.

CG artist cities

Steve Barrett

"I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998, because in New York it was tough to raise two kids in an apartment, housing was very expensive, and the winters could be tough," he explains. "I did not have 'sticker shock' because the Bay Area was a cheaper place to live than in New York.

"Professionally, New York was very demanding and it was a fantastic experience to have. There are many intelligent, friendly and talented people who work there. The art world is fantastic. There are wonderful museums, theaters, galleries, schools and events all year.
I still miss those aspects of New York City life."

But the lifestyle of San Francisco trumps all that. "I like the variety of very open minded and interesting people that live here," he smiles. "You can meet with some very talented people in the CG industry. It's the center of high technology, so it makes it very interesting for a CG artist in many ways.

CG artist cities

San Francisco is a centre of high technology and a magnet for open minded people. Image © Mishaal Barrett

"It's relatively easy to commute if you can use the BART train system. Everyone works hard, but they also go outdoors a lot and enjoy the beauty of the Bay Area. It can be hectic at times, but I would The lifestyle is more family friendly."

The only downside is (and you probably won't be surprised to hear this) the cost of living. "The Bay Area has very expensive housing. San Francisco and the peninsula are getting worse. You can find more affordable housing in the East Bay Area. The gasoline prices are usually the highest in the country."

05. The internet

CG artist cities

Sites like Béhance offer a great way of interacting with the latest in creative thinking wherever in the world you are

The one thing that stuck out when I was researching this article is that most CG artists feel that wherever they are, as long as they have a good internet connection, that is good enough for them. Sites like Behance and CG Society offer artists plenty of opportunity to network and show their work without leaving the house.

Keeping up with the latest skills is straightforward too, with resources such as Gnomon, fxphd and Digital Tutors. Most software now available as a download rather than in box, making it available globally at the same time. And even the biggest companies are increasingly happy to deal with remote workers.

While there are a number of great cities for CG artists to live in, they come with caveats, particularly in terms of cost of living. So as time goes on and technology develops further, perhaps the internet will become the ultimate 'city' of the CG artist, as its potential for working, networking and socialising makes our physical location less and less important...

Words: Mike Griggs

Mike Griggs is a concept 3D, VFX and motion graphics artist working across TV, exhibition and digital design.

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