Creating fan art is such a hot button topic with people. Are the original creator’s rights being diligently looked after? Are the young people who create fan art being appropriately trained in what’s plagiarism and what’s deviation or inspiration? They’re appropriate concerns, ones I try to cover with any student who shows me something they’re working on.
I was approached over the summer by someone launching his own fan-fiction appreciation site, and part of his message asking me to evaluate his site struck me as odd:
“I also wonder if you take fan-fiction seriously, or if you don’t really care that much for it.”
He found me via FanFiction.net, so I really wasn’t sure why he was questioning my opinion of fan art. It turned out that he really wasn’t sure, either, so I gave him the following answer:
As an artist and fan, I think fan fiction, fan art, AMVs, and video parodies are valid ways of expressing your support for a favorite property. As a teacher, I find creating fan works can often be a useful way to learn the skills and techniques necessary to move on to create your own world in your chosen medium.
A number of my students and people I’ve met through various fan and art sites have started out creating fan art, learning the techniques for the craft in trying to mimic a favorite author’s voice or an artist’s style and then building on that to develop their own style, their own point of view. They use what they learn in creating fan art to create original works with a sharper eye than would have been possible when they were just starting out. Some of them let this growth lead them into a more creative career, inspired by that original foundation. Others continue on as just a hobby. Some use these skills to teach others what they’ve learned or to help guide them as they comment on others’ works.
Becoming involved in the creation and sharing of fan art benefits the artist by allowing them to gain skills, to gather feedback for improvement, to learn to deal with harsh criticism or criticism that missed the mark gracefully. and to give others constructive feedback.