191: The Art of Fandom

The Art of Fandom

We've all heard of the "starving artist," but what about the "starving fan-artist"? John Funk takes a look at the world of fan art - why so many people are willing to spend so much time doing something for free - and at three artists who became more than just faces in a virtual crowd.

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I find fan art is a great way of being creative when my own ideas dry up. Bringing something new to someone else's work is something I enjoy. Personally I draw and create a lot anyway, and just recently decided I may as well put some of my work online, which adds an incentive to put a bit more effort in and to actually finish stuff. Actually I've done fan art of a lot of things, half of which I don't even like, but found the designs interesting.

I still don't understand fan art or fan-fiction properly. Where fan art is bad, it's painful to behold; where it's good, it seems like a waste of creative talents, and possibly a bit lazy to boot. There are certainly some fine artists and writers working with materials which they are fans of, but the only thing that typically I'm thinking of when I see these is, "How much wasted potential - why couldn't they come up with their own ideas?"

RAKtheUndead:
I still don't understand fan art or fan-fiction properly. Where fan art is bad, it's painful to behold; where it's good, it seems like a waste of creative talents, and possibly a bit lazy to boot. There are certainly some fine artists and writers working with materials which they are fans of, but the only thing that typically I'm thinking of when I see these is, "How much wasted potential - why couldn't they come up with their own ideas?"

I don't really understand it either... I just do it. I guess it's from getting caught up in the emotions of the work/franchise; working from scratch can be a long, slow slog. ("Faster, easier, more seductive it is"?) I have to admit that my franchise-based stuff has (so far, anyway) turned out better than my stand-alone stuff.

Admittedly, among my first writing was work-for-hire interstitial text for games*... maybe that's an influence on my work, but it'd hardly be the same for the majority of fanfic/fanart creators.

-- Steve

*One would think this would be a dream job, and indeed it was fun... but sadly it didn't pay a living wage.

Anton P. Nym:
I don't really understand it either... I just do it. I guess it's from getting caught up in the emotions of the work/franchise; working from scratch can be a long, slow slog. ("Faster, easier, more seductive it is"?) I have to admit that my franchise-based stuff has (so far, anyway) turned out better than my stand-alone stuff.

I could hardly call myself a good fictional writer, whether I invented the fictional universe or not, but I feel it's more personal to think of all of the details yourself. Or at least I did feel that way the last time I wrote anything fictional - I'm very displeased with writing prose right now, and I can't see myself going back to it any time soon, short of a concerted effort which would make me hate it even more.

As an artist I do empathize with wanting to do more original material - but lots of kids at conventions gravitate towards fanart because it appeals to their interests more than original material they're not familiar with. Some may not take into regard the visual quality of the work they see, as much as it pains me to say this.

Fanart isn't about tracing over copyrighted work, that stuff just doesn't count in my opinion. Doing fanart may seem lazy from a conceptual point of view, but fact is you're still going to have to plan out what else you can do with established characters, give them a nice twist, and slog it out on paper and on the comp. That part will never change.

I mean how else were we able to manage having Marvel and DC comics go on for well over 50 years?

On the other hand if you do enough original illustrations on your own you'll soon have a nice backlog of material you can use for future reference. The process is similar but the principle of exploring and stretching ideas is the same. The more you keep doing it, the easier it becomes, trust me. That's how lots of videogame and animation pre-production work gets done.

Y'know what's really funny is that some professional artists in Japan started off doing fan-based works [erotic or non or both] before hitting it big in certain studios. In North America the same could be said for comic artists. I know Arnold Tsang did plenty of the stuff before he landed himself in Udon doing the Street Fighter comics.

Careful though, once doing fanart lands a job, the whole thing really does become a job.

axl99:
As an artist I do empathize with wanting to do more original material - but lots of kids at conventions gravitate towards fanart because it appeals to their interests more than original material they're not familiar with. Some may not take into regard the visual quality of the work they see, as much as it pains me to say this.

Fanart isn't about tracing over copyrighted work, that stuff just doesn't count in my opinion. Doing fanart may seem lazy from a conceptual point of view, but fact is you're still going to have to plan out what else you can do with established characters, give them a nice twist, and slog it out on paper and on the comp. That part will never change.

I mean how else were we able to manage having Marvel and DC comics go on for well over 50 years?

On the other hand if you do enough original illustrations on your own you'll soon have a nice backlog of material you can use for future reference. The process is similar but the principle of exploring and stretching ideas is the same. The more you keep doing it, the easier it becomes, trust me. That's how lots of videogame and animation pre-production work gets done.

Y'know what's really funny is that some professional artists in Japan started off doing fan-based works [erotic or non or both] before hitting it big in certain studios. In North America the same could be said for comic artists. I know Arnold Tsang did plenty of the stuff before he landed himself in Udon doing the Street Fighter comics.

Careful though, once doing fanart lands a job, the whole thing really does become a job.

A wild axl appears!

I'd be interested to know just how many professional artists did get their start by doing fanart. I don't know, it's always seemed to me to be a way to work on a different set of skills rather than just going with original stuff all the way.

RAKtheUndead:

Anton P. Nym:
I don't really understand it either... I just do it. I guess it's from getting caught up in the emotions of the work/franchise; working from scratch can be a long, slow slog. ("Faster, easier, more seductive it is"?) I have to admit that my franchise-based stuff has (so far, anyway) turned out better than my stand-alone stuff.

I could hardly call myself a good fictional writer, whether I invented the fictional universe or not, but I feel it's more personal to think of all of the details yourself. Or at least I did feel that way the last time I wrote anything fictional - I'm very displeased with writing prose right now, and I can't see myself going back to it any time soon, short of a concerted effort which would make me hate it even more.

In a method of trying to turn your current train of thought on its head and spinning it around, imagine fan-fiction/art as a parallel to reviewing. Good reviewing takes technical merit, writing talent, a vivid understanding of the source material, and effort. Good reviewers come highly recommended on this site while the less talented are taught and instructed.

It's a form of art that takes technical merit and work, regardless of what source material it's drawing from. Sure it doesn't have the same detail-oriented approach, but working from something you didn't originally pen isn't a bad thing. Eoin Colfer of the Artemis Fowl book series was asked by the wife of Douglas Adams to continue the Hitchhiker's Guide series. Jim Butcher has written a Spider-Man novel. Frank Hebert passed his Dune series along to his son.

These are all professionals who have/will built/build very respectable novels out of source material that doesn't belong to them. Non-original work. That does/will make no difference for the overall quality, nor does it negatively affect the talent.

It's just a form of art like any other. Though not as in-depth, certainly nothing so remarkable as lesser in quality.

fan art is either really good, or really bad, in this case, it was amazing!!!

I think my favorite fan art is from GAVade gavade.deviantart.com
:D
Most is terrible quality but occasionally you luck onto an actual artist.

two words: mob mentality

As an artist who does fanart on occasion, I'd say there are several reasons for doing it, but basically, 1) love of the character or show, or 2) just practicing drawing technique can be easier with a familiar character. It can also be easier to convey a message using a character a lot of people are familiar with, i.e. obamaterasu.

Of course, there are artists who use fanart/fanfiction to try to gain popularity, or as mentioned, earn a profit. But I think very often fanart actually contributes to something's success: for example, if a well-known artist draws a fanart of something, the people who have been following this artist's work may check out the original, and in turn, it creates more fans.

Also remember, that every artist starts out terrible, no one is a Van Gogh or DaVinci the first time they pick up a pencil. Fanart (when used in combination with other drawing practice) is an easy way to learn through imitation . . . of course, then you must be careful of outright copying!

Guilty DA Fanartist here, I'm not without my own personal ideas but they're for my Portfolio, not the DA community. ;P

I like this article, lots of nodding, and smiles brought forth. Thanks, good read. Also if any of you are on there also, drop me a link, I love finding other artists and exchanging techniques. DA does have a scary amount of work to wade through, so often at times I find people through outside forums this way.

Fanart can be fun, but I wouldn't practice it publicly.

The Simpsonzu was garbage in my opinion. She captured the faces alright but that's pretty much it. The Futurama one from her was way better, too.

Ah, I remember the article picture from when I was younger. It was a picture of Meliadoul from Final Fantasy Tactics.

Now I want to go play it again.

taintedsilence:
Of course, there are artists who use fanart/fanfiction to try to gain popularity, or as mentioned, earn a profit. But I think very often fanart actually contributes to something's success: for example, if a well-known artist draws a fanart of something, the people who have been following this artist's work may check out the original, and in turn, it creates more fans.

And the flipside of that as well (at least in fanart) is that people who are fans of some franchise can be turned onto your general work if your fan art is solid enough.

I really don't get why anyone would see fan-made work as a threat.. I mean, it brings attention to your property, it's small scale so it won't hurt financially, and they are providing things that you can't/won't.

And some worry about it being hurtful to their property. But that doesn't seem right either; it's not like someone reads a crappy fanfic and gets turned off to the original content all of a sudden. Or are they worried someone might do it better?

 

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