Ah, so many points being raised.
I don't think it's right to just kind of lump artists all into one grouping. Like any profession when you get down to the individuals there are all types.
Some are just workhorses who almost physically can't do less than their absolute best, some are just plain lazy, skating by doing the absolute minimum. Most will do competent work, possibly adding a few gems just to show off their capabilities.
I've heard the argument that they were required to do a lot of cards with a short deadline quite often. If the pay is that low why would they agree to it? It's obviously not just the money, so maybe it's for the resume or a way to get their work out there on a licensed set, but if that's the case they why do work that collectors don't appreciate?
Even though I stopped collecting, there are a lot of artists I have great respect for as they do good solid work on sets (I'm not just talking about the few elite high selling artists), but also treat people who buy their AP's and commissioned art well (there's a whole other can of worms regarding certain artist and how they treat paying customers), but some artists, well, let's just say respect has to be earned.