Maya offers 3 years educational license, you get all the features of Maya for non-commercial use. You just have to sign up :)
You only get it once, so make sure you're serious about using the educational license when you sign up!
For many of my previous titles that I have worked on, including Starbound, I began by making fan art for the current developers. It gets you to study their current art-style, and at the same time performs as an 'art test'. It is a great and inspiring exercise :)