If I am being honest with myself, today's artist is the first person whose work I looked at and said, "I'm going to do stuff like this!" I had been doing 3D renders in Vue, and was just starting to make the jump to photoshop painting and photo-compositing. I watched Dylan's Gnomon DVD series, and I was hooked.
I actually wrote my entrance essay to art school on his work. He was the lead matte painter on "Return of the King", and has worked on SO MANY cool films on top of that, both as a matte painter and a concept artist.