Although I don’t make fan art that often (since I’m worried that my imagination would start to atrophy if I do), I suddenly really felt like making some a while before writing this article. Even though the full-size picture won’t be posted here until mid-March, here’s a reduced-size preview of it:
Although I didn’t include all of the late 1980s/ early-mid 1990s references that I’d planned to include (as well as “Gremlins 2“, “Lois & Clark“, “The X-Files” and “Dilbert“, my initial idea also included references to “Twin Peaks” and “Heathers“), it was a lot of fun to make. So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make your fan art more interesting.
1) Look for connections: One of the easiest ways to make interesting fan art is simply to look at what several of your favourite things have in common. If you can find some kind of connection between several things, then you can use this as the basis for a more interesting and complex piece of fan art.
For example, in the picture at the beginning of this article, two of the things that “Gremlins 2”, “Lois & Clark”, “The X-Files” and “Dilbert” have in common is that their heyday was during the 1990s and they are all at least partially set in offices. Because of this, I was able to combine all of these things into a single cartoon which was also about how strange things tended to happen in offices a lot more often in American TV shows/movies from the 1990s.
If you can analyse your favourite things for any similarities, then this can also allow you to include elements of parody in your fan art too. For example, the “I want to believe” poster from “The X-Files” near to Clark Kent (who is technically an extraterrestrial) in the example picture.
2) Don’t make it too often: Although I mentioned earlier that mostly making original art and avoiding making fan art too often (eg: more than about 1-2 times a month) can help you keep your imagination in shape, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t make fan art too often. It results in better fan art.
Why? Simply put, being reluctant to make too much fan art serves as a quality filter. If you set a limit on the amount of fan art that you make, then you’ll probably only make it when you’ve got a really good idea that you just absolutely have to make!
Only making fan art infrequently also gives you more time to think and plan your picture too. It makes you consider how you can express your ideas about the films/games/TV shows etc.. in question in the best way possible, since making fan art feels more like a special occasion than just an “ordinary” thing.
3) Make fan art of “realistic” things if your style is cartoonish, and vice versa: If your art style is more cartoonish, then you should focus on making fan art based on live-action films/TV shows etc.. If your art style is more “realistic”, then you should focus on making fan art based on stylised cartoons. But, why?
Doing this means that you either have to simplify or add complexity to a pre-existing thing. It also means that your fan art will automatically look slightly different from the thing that it is based on, which can instantly make it more visually interesting than a more “accurate” depiction.
This also ensures that you actually use your own style too. Since, if you’re an inexperienced cartoonist who is making fan art of another cartoon, then it can be very easy to use the other cartoonist’s style (not only is this incredibly lazy, but it also can cause visual consistency problems if you use your own style for the background etc..). Making fan art based on something with a radically different detail level to your own art forces you to actually use your own style.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂