During the early Sixties, already an avid painter for several years in Eastern Manitoba, my good friend and fellow artist, Robert Kost, told me about an experience that had taken place at his home and studio. He had a call from a lady in Brandon, about 300 miles away, saying that they had heard that there was an artist in that area and would he mind if they came to him and his work. As it turned out, four ladies arrived a few days later, sketch books and cameras in hand, and talked for several hours with him while he showed them what he was doing. A happy event for all!
During those days artists were so few and far between that a 300 mile drive to see one was not considered strange. Artists were usually trained in college art schools and mostly worked for firms that employed Commercial artists. GRIP in Toronto was such a firm and became central to the forming of The Group of Seven. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_of_Seven_(artists)Self-taught artists were a rarity and usually not very good at what they did because Instructional art books were hard to get.
In today's world, I could easily find two or three hundred instructional art books , not to mention almost as many videos and television series showing you exactly"how to do it". Coupled with this plethora of "art stuff" is a new age of retired folks who are often well-pensioned with plenty of leisure time on their hands. Not surprisingly, the number of artists has mushroomed. The quality of the art is sometimes questionable, but they are having fun and some of them are pretty darn good!
"So what's he getting at?" is likely your question. The vast numbers of artists today mean several things to artists like myself who have been practicing their craft for half a century. First of all, I've taught a lot of them and claim responsibility for something that some older artists believe is a problem in competition. Secondly, Art is not a competitive game because as the numbers of artists grow, so does the population. Thirdly, because there are many more people involved in art, the interest in it increases. You would be surprised how many folks can identify the old masters and are very discriminating as to the quality of paintings in galleries. This surge in growth of artists, professional or amateur, has led to a new Rennaissance. In 1960 some folks drove 300 miles to see an artist at work. Today they wouldn't cross the street for that experience and if they did, the art had better be good.It's an exciting challenge to be part of it!