$1.68 for a gallon of gas isn't the same as $1,000 a month on a little, one bedroom apartment. Nothing nice or even really big. Just a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and a living room just big enough for a couch and a TV. Then you gotta pay hundreds a month on utility bills, and hundreds a week for grocerys in order to eat. Then place said apartment in California in not the wrost neighborhood and one thats not completely gross, and the price is just way higher! It makes me sad. Yet, even if there wasn't the whole boyfriend waiting for me in California thing, I'd still probably end up there anyways. All the serious art schools (especially those dealing in cartooning) are in California. Anyone serious in making a living with their art needs to try and get into one of those schools. And then be lucky enough to get hired and make a living with art after graduation.
Well, if it makes you feel any better I live in the world's second most expensive city. Here in Tokyo if you pay the same rent as you would in Southern California, where I grew up, you get about 1/3 the space. One room, literally one room. Can go for as much as US $1,200./ month and since we ride trains here, the closer your place is to the station the more expensive it gets. California is an expensive place but the wages are higher too and there are a lot of different industries so it's easier to find a job than some places.
The art thing is true depending on what area you want to go into. As you said, if you want to do animation or big-foot style cartooning etc. California is a good place to be. But for fine art I think Chicago and New York are the epicenters of artistic movements, outside of France anyway.
I spent my first two years in college as an art major and looking back I am happy I didn't continue my education in Art in the academic setting because if you are not doing digital stuff there are not a lot of jobs out there anymore. I am really trying hard to break into the American underground comic scene or to make a living from traditional illustration, painting and drawing. I think going to art school can help some people get a start but in the end it really comes down to practice and you can do that without some stuffy, pretentious art instructor who is only teaching because they could not pay the bills with their own art.
This is going to sound really stuck up but I have never met an art school graduate that could draw as well as I do...I know there are a lot of people in the world that do work that makes mine look childish but personally I have never encountered an art school grad. who's work made me wish I had completed art school education.
Sometimes it better to just do your own thing to develop your own style kind of like Van Gogh.
[url=http://www.bobafettfanclub.com/multimedia/galleries/thumbnails.php?album=lastupby&uid=1624]My Fan Art[/url]