These past several weeks the New York Times has been collecting stories submitted by artists answering the question, "What effect has the recession had on your life and work"? Hundreds of creative types have responded and you can read the tales of woe and triumph here. There is also a follow up piece, highlighting several individuals, accompanied by a nifty slide show.
Speed reading through the responses confirmed what I have experienced and heard from others. Times like these can spur creativity, an attitude of , "what have I got to lose" starts to develop, invigorating the work. Now, if you are a mature artist, with an overhead to match your success, stress can begin to dominate your psyche, there's a lot to lose.
A majority of my art world connections began their careers during the late 80's recession, it wasn't a great time to start a gallery or to quit your job and paint, but we did it anyway. Is this downturn a totally different animal, maybe, but what I do know is this, regardless of what is in their wallets, artists will continue to adapt and create.