>Is it my biased nostalgia for the 90s/00s art styles, or did they just try harder than the modern furfags on patreon?
Some of column A, some of column B. Also survivor bias, furries learning from furries, and reification.
Remember that this thread's examples are often from the upper end of the furry artists who practiced at the time, who came from backgrounds with actual training in animation, illustration, and art. There was much more content floating around by completely untalented, uneducated, unpracticed furry artists (some of which is also ITT), but because it was shit nobody bothers remembering it. You can browse some corners of the VCL (http://us.vclart.net/vcl/)
to see what I mean, although it seems to be having a database problem at the moment.
explains the furries learning from furries and reification bit:
>Anyone learning to draw anthro characters won't be learning from Warner Brothers cels, Disney stills, or mascots - they'll be learning directly from the furry fandom's considerable body of work. That in turn will influence their developing style, baking less innocent elements into their final works.
If you filtered out all the dross from this era, you'd probably some a few artists working with furries who're creating interesting art at an effort level more like some of the stuff above. Also, maybe one or two of the Patreon leeches might end up developing into something interesting, like how Tracy Butler went from generic 1990s-uguu to drawing Lackadaisy.