Fanart in the art community is controversial. While many people create art about films and TV characters they love, there’s an acknowledgement it’s copying other people’s ideas.
Questions arise: ‘is this art?’ Is it plagiarism? Should we create fan art or art of our own? I find the controversy a little overplayed; I’ve never done much fan art in the years I’ve created. But at the same time, I do see the appeal.
Firstly, copying art to learn is a time-honoured tradition. Artists in the past would learn methods and gain confidence from a mentor by emulating their style and making copies of the Masters. Impressionist art is still widely created, but it’s not considered copying the works of Monet and Renoir but only their style.
Copying itself is not the problem; the controversy lies when we copy others’ ideas and pass them as our own.
Fan Art is the art we create from stories that inspire us; it gives a form to our adventurous side. I think of my joy with Star Wars. The story coveys a grand, fascinating journey that pulls at my heartstrings and still does. The romantic within us likes a good story to escape the dull routine of real life.
We copy because it’s a reminder of our dreams and hopes. We honour our favourite art and artists as we remember how they make us feel.
It’s also an excellent way to get into art; I heard it’s how many artists started—copying other works and creating new narratives for many artists. I didn’t do art as a kid, but I did play with Star Wars toys and painted Warhammer Miniatures.
Creating fan art is where we feel comfortable making and beginning the process of learning skills. We gain confidence and insights about who we are.
However, such a drive gradually fades, no longer content merely copying others. We want to find our voice and express our ideas. This is how it should be; we honour our inspirations and use them as a springboard for our creative endeavours.
As for plagiarism, people create fan art and sell it; as long as you’re small, the big brands may not notice. But if you’re making big money, then those who own the Intellectual Property will likely come knocking—either asking you to stop or for a cut of the profits.
To me, fan art is acceptable because it inspires people, from illustrations and paintings to cosplay. It’s a way to develop skills and make connections with other fans. It helps us gain confidence and practice creativity until the time we are ready to speak with our voice.