One of the things that surprises me is how little fan art I produce. Apart from the occasional art series or study of an old painting, I often only seem to produce a few pieces of fan art a month at most.
In a way, this is probably a good thing, since it means that there is at least some originality and imagination in my work but, on the other hand, I feel like I’m neglecting one of the most interesting types of art in existence.
I’m not going to get into the legal aspects of fan art too much here (especially since the rules vary from country to country and because many large media companies will often turn a blind eye to non-commercial fan art because it helps to maintain fan interest in their products and also because it doesn’t pay for them to censor or attack their most enthusiastic customers). Although, generally speaking, one of the major rules about fan art is that you should never sell your fan art
Anyway, fan art is a surprisingly powerful and interesting type of art to produce. Before I go any further, I should probably point out that fan art is about as far from a “modern” type of art as you can get.
If you look back at the history of western art, you’ll find countless paintings based on Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Christian mythology, folklore, historical figures etc… All of this is, technically speaking, fan art.
Personally, I’d argue that modern fan art is just an extension of this tradition. After all, modern Western culture is made up of thousands of stories, films, games etc… that have influenced our collective imaginations and making fan art is a way of “retelling” these stories in the same way that old painters used to do when they painted scenes from ancient mythology.
Making fan art is a way of interacting with the culture around you as more than just a passive member of the audience. This is really hard to describe, but the experience of making fan art feels very different to the experience of making more original works of art.
When you make fan art, it feels like you’re standing on the shoulders of giants and that you’re making something that feels intensely relevant to you. It feels like you’re re-telling the stories you are surrounded by in your own personal way. It makes you feel like you’re part of something much larger than just your own imagination. So, it can be worth making fan art just to feel this particular emotion.
Fan art is also an absolutely brilliant type of art to produce for the simple reason that it helps you to define yourself as an artist. After all, if you’re making a drawing or a painting of a fictional character that everyone knows, then you’re probably going to paint that character in your own art style. If you have a unique art style, then making fan art can be an absolutely fascinating thing because it allows you to see what your favourite characters look like in your own art style.
In addition to this, fan art also makes your art instantly recognisable to a large number of people because they are already familiar with the subject matter of your painting or drawing. I have extremely mixed views about this, but it’s quite telling that on DeviantART (a popular online art website), even the most badly-drawn fan art picture of something popular can often get far more views than an exquisitely-made original work of art can.
Likewise, when it comes to artistic inspiration, fan art is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a quick source of instant inspiration since the only creative decisions you really have to make when you’re producing fan art are more technical things like the composition of the image (eg: where the characters are standing etc…). In other words, if you can’t think of anything to paint or draw, then making fan art based on a pre-existing creative work can really come in handy.
But, on the other hand, if you mostly make fan art based on other things then you aren’t really giving your own imagination any exercise. What this means is that it will probably be harder for you to produce more original works of art if you mostly just make fan art. This is probably one of the reasons why I only make fan art occasionally, rather than regularly.
So, yes, fan art is probably one of the most powerful types of art out there for both artists and audiences. But, try not to make it too often.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂