I recently pulled a series of Disney children's encyclopedia's from my son's shelf and had a gander at them. They were mine and my brothers when we were kids and now they have been passed on to the next generation. He loves looking through the pages loaded with photos and illustrations covering everything from science, history and geography. Something that brought back memories of my childhood. As I thumbed through the yellowed pages I would glance at the photos, read some of the captions but ultimately I would linger on the illustrations scattered across the pages. They were beautiful. The more I saw, the more I envied the skills these of classically drawn and painted images with rich colours and textures.
I think a lot of these skills have been lost since the adaptation of certain programs that allow you to undo, use layers and change colours infinitely until you get it right. I should know, I have my fingers rested on "apple Z" most of the day. These artist's, using paints, sponges and brushes had to really think ahead and have a solid understanding of what they were doing. To me, thats really impressive.
I will, probably for the rest of my life, fumble to reach that level of understanding and quality. For now, I'm going to keep looking at these old images and try to absorb some of that greatness.
As a note, the above image is something I've done and not an example from one of the books. Those are much, much better.