When I started to really take drawing seriously, in my early teens, I couldn't get enough tasty artwork in front of my hungry young eyeballs. I grew up in the pre-video age in a small country town with no comics shop. So for visual stimulation I had whatever movies came to the local cinema or the two local TV channels, and the other random eye-food I could gobble-down at the newspaper store (which amounted to Mad Magazine and Heavy Metal magazine). There certainly weren't any other kids (or adults) interested in drawing that I knew, so I had nobody to bounce ideas off of, or to be inspired by artistically. I didn't find a creative community until I left my home town to start work.
I was single minded about getting into animation but I wasn't aware of any courses that taught it back then. Thankfully, the animation studios in Sydney were prepared to hire people based solely on some pretty sparse portfolios. In those days, the typical young cartoonist's portfolio consisted of lumpy drawings of awkwardly posed, axe-wielding barbarians, usually accompanied by equally lumpy warrior maidens wearing brass bikinis that barely contained their doughy warrior buttocks. You get the picture; Acres of flesh, but no anatomy in sight. Thankfully, against this backdrop, my crappy sheaf of scribbly cartoon drawings stood half a chance, and I got a job as an in-betweener, working happily on some truly attrocious cartoons. I am glad that I got into the industry when I did because it wouldn't be so easy these days…
The calibre of young artists has shot up, way up. Students just getting out of art school have portfolios full of good drawings, and paintings, all beautifully done and displaying a broad range of influences, not just Mad magazine and TV cartoons. I see some of these folios submitted at the studios I work at, and they impress me no end. I wouldn't dream of being able to assemble a folio like that even now, let alone in my twenties. Curse these young pups! They are so much better than I remember any of my peers being at a similar age, and I blame the pernicious influences of the damn internet! I am convinced that part of the reason for the hike in talent has something to do with the wealth of inspiration and community the web now provides for budding artists.
I wish it was available when I was in my teens. Exchanging ideas with other artists, including my artist-heroes, via email or message boards and forums would have been like a protein-shake for my creative development…
The amount of great artwork online from around the world, viewable at just the click of a mouse amazes me… Illustrators, fine-art painters, cartoonists, designers, animators… I can see art by artists of all ages and experience levels, from people who perform a behind the scenes role at media companies, to those who may still be in school. Without the web how would we ever have seen all this stuff?
Which may also explain my perception of an increase in talent: Whereas before I was only seeing the artwork of people that I met face to face, now I can see artwork by top talents from all over the planet?
Whatever the case may be, I am glad of my access to all this stuff out there. I find fresh inspiration every day.