Fan art is real art

Changing people’s minds about the importance of fan art

Mia Eshima, Staff Writer

Illustration by Mia Eshima

I am an avid hobbyist digital artist. I picked up digital art about two years ago, and nowadays I can often be found scribbling on my iPad Pro using Procreate; my all-time favorite art app. For me, art is the best creative outlet because there is no limit on what can be created.

Unfortunately, being a full-time student doesn’t give me all the free time I want to draw, but I’ve taken up illustrating for The Falcon, Seattle Pacific University’s student-run newspaper. My works have been featured in both features and perspectives articles as well as on The Falcon’s Instagram page. However, when I’m not making illustrations for SPU’s one and only news outlet, I am pursuing an entirely different form of artistic expression: making fan art.

I’ve made fan art of characters from games, films and even real people such as Harry Styles. I am only one of thousands of artists who both specialize in and avidly enjoy creating fan art.

However, this hobby is not without criticism.

Many people believe fan art should not be counted as real art because the content it depicts is not original and supposedly takes the whole process of character/subject design away from the artist. Those who are extremely critical of fan art sometimes call it cowardly because the artist is relying on replicating something rather than creating something new. Furthermore, fan art is also seen as too easy to make and lacking in the artist’s true style or personality.

All of these claims have led to a large debate over whether or not fan art should be regarded as legitimate pieces of artwork. For me, fan art absolutely counts as real art.

Learning art isn’t easy, even if I only do it for fun. I’ve still had to develop artistic skills such as knowledge of anatomy, where to put shadows or highlights, and I’ve had to experiment with several digital art programs before finding the ones I liked the best.

In addition, the full process of creating art is not any faster or easier just because the subject is not always original. In fact, sometimes it can be more difficult if the subject I’m referencing has a lot of details in their design, whereas I can make an original character as plain as I’d like.

While the subjects of most fan-made artworks do consist of characters from pop culture, it would be wrong to suggest that an artist’s style or personality cannot be portrayed in their work. An important part of becoming an artist is finding and developing one’s own style, or a method of drawing that the artist is most comfortable with. One of the easiest ways to find a style is by making fan art because it forces artists to view, interpret and recreate different subjects.

I can easily say from experience that it is extremely hard to copy someone else’s art style line for line unless the original is traced, which is plagiarism. Besides, trying to perfectly replicate another artist’s work takes all the fun out of drawing. Drawing is about creating artwork based on one’s own interpretations and creativity.

“Draw this in your style” art challenges are a great example of fan art serving as an outlet for artists to show off their artistic skills. The challenge involves a bunch of artists recreating a character or scenario in their own unique art style. It is a great way to see how character designs and methods vary between artists.

Fan art is not meant to create copycat artwork, but to instead show appreciation for different franchises and aspects of pop culture. It is a way for fans to bond over their interests, develop their artistic skills and appreciate each other’s hard work. Fan art keeps these fandoms alive and helps the creators connect with people who enjoy their creations.

Fan art is without a doubt another method of expressing one’s creativity. Being able to make great fan art is just as impressive as making original art because both types of art require skills and patience. Fan art allows creators to display their creative abilities in the form of popular characters and franchises, and I can reassure anyone that no artist would ever try to replicate the original subject line for line.

My advice for aspiring artists is this: if you are lacking in ideas of what to draw, just make fan art of something you like. It’s still valid artwork.