What Is Fan Art?
Fan art is the recreation of a character in art from popular media. This can include anime, movies, video games, or other sources. It is used to produce not only art but also memes, gifs, and even alt characters from the parent source.
Before I continue please understand my critique here needs to be taken within context of what fan art is and how it applies to artists. In no way do I wish to impact how artists seek commissions.
I love fan art. It is a fun thing. Nevertheless keep reading at how this can impact an artists life through the audience grown.
Internet And Social Media Influence On Fan Art
There are three reasons for why fan art has become so popular. The first and most influential reason is the internet age coming into its maturity.
The birth of the meme with all its variations helped to take all manner of images to interesting places. Some were good, others not so much. Fan art too would take a spin along a similar path.
Historically fan art has always been with us. That idea in of itself was nothing new. Yet it was only with technology where we find exponential growth.
If we turn back time to before the advent of social media you would find fan art a more niche and secluded market. It was something that kids or teens typically partook in.
While young adults who were artists may have participated in fan art, few were known for it. So what did social media do for fan art?
Social media provided a connection, a window, an outlet by which fan art could be seen by everyone. Anyone could become famous for their representation.
Despite the present saturation people keep finding ways to create in a new way. Advances in software which allows for image editing and basic animation and you arrive at a new art base.
Gifs and other animated digital art rise in popularity which go viral to circulate across these media networks.
Popularity Of Big Names Drive Fan Art
Who doesn’t know names like Disney, Dreamworks, or Marvel? How about names such as Harry Potter, Light Yagami, or even BTS in music?
These names create instant reactions by those who know them, and each has a fan base which at least reaches into the tens of millions. This creates a perfect storm with the perfect vehicle of social media in bringing fan generated content.
Yet there is something to note about this situation which is not immediately apparent. Once you peel back the layers it is not all as “natural” or “innocent” as it looks.
This does not mean that devious intentions are at work. Rather it is a perfect situation for an artist who is looking to use an existing fan base to gain popularity.
Here is where we step beyond just fans being the people who are creating this fan art. Legal and ethical issues begin to surface.
Artists Who Use Fan Art For Their Popularity
As long as an artist follows copyright laws I see nothing morally wrong with creating fan art in its own right. Yet there are serious issues which exist.
Among these issues is the choice of an artists path, maturity, name, and their future brand. More on this later.
Conflict between artists can arise as well. Accusations of tracing the art or duplicating others ideas can be used to attack and shut down another artists endeavor.
Here the conflict is amplified by the fan base or following the said artist has. The tactic is geared really towards taking someones base and expanding influence.
For some of these artists, it is because of and through fan art that they will be known. These individuals would have not had other opportunities to be seen for their art, and perhaps will never be known otherwise.
If it were just left to this alone then perhaps all would be well. Yet for many this becomes an income stream via art or selling prints. Once they have gained popularity due to someone else’s brand they now generate revenue from it.
Here is where a serious gray zone appears in many boundaries. This can have an impact legally, morally, and professionally.
It is this gray zone which needs great attention to detail. The real question to ask at this point is, what do you wish to be known for? Where do you see your future?
The Typecast And Stereotype Of Fan Art
Understand there is a clear difference between creating fan art for the love of it, and then its creation for profit. These are two very different worlds.
The footprint of the artist for profit will be greater than the one merely for fun. How far your name and work spreads under each pretense matters.
For artists who participate in creating fan art for profit, they can exist in the gray zone. There are some conditions which the artist must come to know, understand, and accept before getting too deep into this.
In the professional world of art, the artists who work and exist in that world prefer to be recognized by their own original creations. Likewise they prefer to be known by and associate with other artists of the same kind.
What does this mean for an artist who becomes known for fan art? If they so choose to move into a more professional world of art this history can cause conflict. Much will depend upon how well they were known for their fan art.
This conflict comes from two core avenues. They did not pay their dues in becoming known by their own creation is the first. Secondly the artist will have lost valuable time, energy, and effort towards cultivating real art for reference.
It is here that the typecast and stereotype can hurt an artist who is using fan art as a launching pad for their future. It is seen as a shortcut. The artist is seen as an amateur, or one who does not take their art seriously.
These stereotypes exist, whether right or wrong, they still exist. Scrubbing your social media is not as easy as deleting an account. Your name, images, and work will persist.
Why Fan Art Is Bad Professionally
Allow me to ask, what kind of long term art portfolio do you wish to create? Is this the kind of art platform that you wish to achieve? When marketing art you must take these aspects into consideration for your future.
If it is purely for fun, go for it and have fun with fan art. There is nothing wrong with it in this context. Yet building your base upon another brand, and then that content which is your own, can hurt you.
Other artists recognize this principle. Some cast a condescending gaze when they see those who do this. It is like the dark street corners where real artists simply do not go.
If you begin to cultivate your own original work, what do you really want people to find in searching your name? Do you wish for them to find your original work, or your fan art?
Some say why not have both? Why is this a problem? It comes back to the value of your artwork. If an artist is to demand value for their art then it requires certain elements.
Consider that public relations for art can take years or a lifetime to build. One needs to ensure that they set the path they wish to be on early and work to that end.
Value Of Fan Art Compared To Original Art
Fan art can be had very cheaply and easily under 100 dollars. This does not mean that it was easy nor fast to create. Anything under 100 dollars for a professional artist is a loss in almost all cases for original art.
Here we find a very wide gap for value in art. You cannot be a cheap brand and still command premium brand prices at the same time.
Allow me to put this into other terms for you to see this at work. When you think of Hermes, Louis Vuitton, or Gucci, what comes to mind? Did you by chance think of Walmart?
I know locations such as Walmart carry some of these branded products, yet we all know there is a clear difference in that product. Furthermore is that how you want to be known?
Value in art can be applied to you in another way. We go back to the stereotype.
If you are trying to be recognized professionally for your work, how would other professionals see you? What about the academia which would critique you, or galleries that would host you?
Artists Development With And Without Fan Art
If all you ever plan on doing with art is grounded in the popularity of what fan art is, then that is okay. You have your home and that is great.
What about those artists which do not wish for this? The most valuable asset which we have in life is time. The more time which you spend on something other than cultivating your work, your art, and your personal character, that time becomes forever lost.
There are reasons why artists spend so much time in education, art appreciation, the study and practice of fundamentals such as the elements of art. It is about cultivating culture into themselves, and their art.
To gain a competitive edge takes years. I may be a very simple wood artist, and not as gifted as many others, yet I have learned a lot. My education came by trial and error through life not a classroom.
I cannot emphasize how critical it is to not waste time on what is truly most important to you. The losses along the way simply cannot be made up at some point in the future. Life does not work that way.
We get out of our art what we put into it, much is the same way in life itself. If our focus is on the wrong things it is like focusing on the wrong parts of life.
Make sure you place enough value on yourself to focus on what really is most important to you. Invest your time there.
Are There Ways To Incorporate Fan Art Professionally?
You can absolutely incorporate fan art into the professional artists life. Keep it fun. Better yet use it as a giveaway. Participate in the things you love. There is nothing wrong in this.
The problem comes in where fan art begins to become a staple for your brand and name. If it is what you are known for this can be bad if that is not your end intention.
If there is an additional place for the use of fan art in the professional world, it is found within inspiration for original art. I have known some artists who have done this.
These artists have created their own unique genre of art and telling their own stories. In this way they become very unique and a few are quite talented.
Context Of Fan Art Is Everything
I am not here to offend anyone. Yet I do wish to give a clear picture of what this entails. Time will alter the impact of fan art eventually with how it could be accepted.
As I stated earlier, I enjoy fan art. It is fun to see what people can create with the characters they love. So please do not think I am against it.
Just know you will never earn points for fan art academically nor within more elite circles of art. While I may not be anywhere near the level of these big names, please listen.
I know what does make them look at someone. Artists I have met and know around the globe are names I can never compete with, yet they are my friends. I have seen what it takes to be something like a national artist.
Within the circles of successful artists when your name starts to be known, people want to see your history. Where did you come from? How did you get to where you are? What inspired you? There are entire philosophies behind this.
If your answer is fan art, or if they find your name associated with fan art before your other work, you will have issues. You will want to be taken seriously.
If you are talented, yet there are limited aspirations within your life for art, then by all means go have fun with it. Mind the legality of the matters which surround fan art.
If you are in between these two worlds it may be time to give pause and ask yourself questions. This is especially true for young artists who are submitting portfolios.