Edit: I've never expected such a massive response to this journal. But because it's gone all over the internet... I would like to settle a few things first... because I keep getting the same replies over and over again.
1. I made this journal as being my personal opinion. I'm not stating facts here. I'm just saying how I personally feel about drawing fanart. Please don't take this journal as a fact, because it isn't. It was never intended that way.
2. I don't expect you to agree with me. I don't mind either. I'd like you to reply why you think differently. Provide me with your insight and experiences. I'd love that.
3. I'm well aware that I can't change anything about most of these facts. I brought them up for discussion because I want to hear what other people are thinking.
4. Please don't personally attack me, just because I compared a drawing with my own. The Naruto drawing was the first one I found when I hit the search button. I would've used my own, if I made fanart. The 2nd drawing is my own. Not because I have such a big ego, but because I wouldn't want to drag a stranger into this discussion and make random statement about his/her art.
For a while already, I'm having mixed feelings about fanart. Which is weird, I started to realize, when I started to think about it.
It hasn't always been that way. No, as a matter of fact, there used to be a time when I actually liked the concept of fanart, and I thought that making fanart of something showed your liking towards that show greatly. Like being a kind of tribute to the artist that made the original. I did actually make some fanart. Mostly pokemon stuff, and an occasional drawing of another show/series I liked at that moment.
I felt so wrong about that, when I entered DA. Soon after I came to this website, I buried the thought of ever making fanart, somewhere deep in the back of my mind. Never to be seen again.
The main reasons why I came to dislike fanart:
1. It seems like an easy way to score viewers and watchers.
Lame reason, I know. But I simply can't help to think that those who have a gallery full of fanart, only do it to draw a lot of attention to themselves. An artist I knew, and that mostly worked on making and selling fanart, once told me that this type of art was the key to her success. She took characters from a likable show, make paintings of them, and sold them like crazy. The concept is easy. People recognize the characters, so they want to buy it. It's easier selling stuff when the fandom is already there.
I understand that kind of concept, yet I can't help to feel it's an easy way to get rich. Are there really artists out there that enjoy only drawing other people's characters, instead of their own work?
To proof this concept, that fanart is indeed an easy way to score, I've sought DA for a few images of popular fandoms. They weren't to hard to find.
The sloppy naruto drawing on the left has about 1600 favorites. My most popular work (at the moment) has about 1400. Quality difference, anyone? And no... this isn't the only drawing that gets far too much attention.
2. Fanart often lacks quality and originality, but gets massive attention nevertheless
A small search on a few popular fandoms showed me hunderds of images that were either traced from the manga (and colored a bit), or just manually copied from existing pictures. The same style as the original image. No alternations or whatsoever.
The point with images like these, is that I truly question myself: is this art? We're on an art site (or at least, we're supposed to be). In my opinion there's nothing artistic in just tracing or copying a drawing, and coloring it. Coloring drawings is something I did in kindergarten. From an artistic point of view, there's nothing to learn from it. You don't learn how to draw from just tracing stuff. You learn from drawing stuff yourself, not from copying somebody else's style (and yes, I know so. I've been telling this in drawing workshops for the last few months)
I don't mind drawings getting massive attention, but I think it's sad that on an art site, stuff like this get massive attention, while there are countless beginning artists out there... willing to learn... but unable to do so, because they don't get any feedback from the community.
3. A lot of fanart actually makes me hate the original fandom
I've never actually hated My Little Pony, when it was on TV when I was still a kid. Although pony's weren't my thing, I liked how colorful the characters looked. But the recent rise of 'bronies' made me actually hate
MLP. Grown guys, uniting to watch a childs show? Grown man, fapping on MLP characters? (No, I'm not joking here: knowyourmeme.com/memes/lyra-pl…
) That's just plain disgusting.
Why do people always have to turn in an innocent fandom into something sexual?
MLP isn't the only fandom at fault here, though. The exact same goes for all those twisted yaoi girls that pair characters together that didn't like each other in the series at all! Naruto x Sasuke? Goku x Vegeta, anyone?
Please... for the sake of the original series... stop raping those characters! They weren't yours to begin with, and you insult the original creator by doing this. As a creator of characters myself, I would be totally unhappy, when somebody paired my 2 arch enemy's together as a gay couple.
4. I don't think there's anything new to add to an existing fanbase
"But have you never liked a show that much, that you just felt the urge to make art from it?" I was asked by a friend of mine, when I brought up the issue I had with fanart.
Sure, I understand very well that you can be a fan of something. Unlike many people believe, even I've been a fan from a few shows/series/games, even the last few years. To name a few: Pokemon, Portal, Higurashi, Steins Gate, Fate/Zero, Kara no Kyoukai, Sword art Online. All excellent subjects for art, but googling the fandom left me utterly demotivated.
Aside from the fact that the series often have great art already (because most of them have -- that's the reason they have so many fans), I felt like everything has already been done before. I couldn't think about a single subject that would be original, or would draw the attention, in the enormous amount of fanart already existing. As an artist, I tend to create something original. Something that'd make people think. Just imitating other peoples styles and ideas is not my style. Being original is already hard when making your own art... but it seems impossible when doing fanart.
5. Having too much fanart in my gallery would make people group me with those fanart-only types
My opinion on how I see fanart artists, also affects how I want to keep my own gallery. I hate hypocrisy, let alone being a hypocrite myself, so that's why I've refrained from making fanart so far. I'm afraid making too much fanart would people make me group with those "I make fanart, only for the attention"-type of people that I tend to dislike.
6. DeviantArt community's massive love for (bad) fanart has triggered some anti-reaction in me
Yeah. I admit it. DA's overwhelming love on fanart works in the opposite direction for me. Even if I even liked a series that much, I would probably refrain from making fanart, just for the sake of it. I'm stubborn. I won't deny that. Maybe that if, somewhere in a far future, DA will become more like a real art site and original characters/art get the attention they deserve... I will make some fanart. But until that time... I guess I won't.
So... how about art for small fandoms? Characters of other DeviantArt members, for example? You've done that!
I'm a hypocrite. I know. Small fandoms make me somehow feel more comfortable. You don't have a massive amount of people that make art for it, so you have the freedom to be original. And when it comes to real small, unpublished, work... the original makers often appreciate the effort you took to draw their characters -- In contrary to those massive fandoms. I don't think the creator of Naruto would care any more or less for those that make fanart. And I can't blame them for it, either. It has become too massive.
To me, it feels like those unnoticed characters deserve more love. As an aspiring writer, I always liked it when people liked my story. Even though the number of people that liked me story wouldn't probably be over 20, I liked their individual art and comments. It's been the fuel that kept me going. As artists with small projects (as there are probably plenty around here) we all know that it feels good to be recognized, even if it's only by a few people. We don't get the recognition otherwise. We don't have publishers that help us. We don't earn money for what we do. We don't have a massive fanbase. We just do something we love and we believe in, and we need those few people that tell us "You're doing great. I like your work."
And last but not least... not all fanart is bad