So I love fanart. I think it’s fun. I think it’s a great way for someone to learn skills and build confidence in a relatively safe, amateur setting, but sometimes it’s not sunshine and butterflies. Fanartists, because of the very visible yet niche nature of their work, are destined to encounter shitbags on the internet.
Since I’ve been sharing fan art online since 2002, I thought I’d type up some notes. This is just my experience/angle on things, so ymmv.
- People will steal your art. The difference between fanart and regular art is that it’s recognizable by subject, and since you don’t own the subject, everyone will assume they have the right to it. They’ll put it on their blogs. They’ll try to pass it off as their own. They’ll sell it at conventions. They’ll sell it on Russian t-shirt sites, and you won’t be able to stop them because you won’t speak the language. They’ll sell it on Ebay. Someone will steal it, and you will have little if any power to stop them.
- People will appropriate your art for their own use. This may or may not bother you, but be prepared to see graphics, wallpapers, icons, backgrounds, etc. made from your work without your consent. Again, this is because people think they have a claim on the character, and they don’t recognize that your art is your property, even if the character is not. In many cases, people who make backgrounds don’t think they’re doing any harm (and some might assume you will be flattered). If you can, try to be clear about this. Post some rules on your blog or gallery. Have something you can link to. Or, if you’re me, ignore your own sensible advice and go have a drink.
- People will make fun of you. The more niche your art it is, the more likely they are to make fun of you. Shitbags will post your work on 9gag and rip it apart. The best thing to do is ignore it. Or you can rage a bit. Or you can do what I do, which is expect it. Take the piss out of yourself. Laugh at yourself. Draw unicorn porn. Send it to 9gag with a ribbon on it and tell those motherfuckers to have a ball. People have a harder time laughing at you when you’re already laughing at yourself.
- You will be embarrassed by your stuff. Guaranteed. Especially if you draw porn. Especially if you draw across several fandoms. The art you drew a year ago will suck. Again, just learn to expect it. If you post your art online, it’s pretty much there forever, so post it with a clear head.
- People will only care about your art. Everyone does this, even me. You follow people for their art. You don’t want a relationship beyond that; you just want to enjoy the work. If you’re an artist, don’t expect more from people. Respect what they’re willing to give.
- Fangirls and fanboys can be demanding as fuck. They will tell you what they think you should draw. You can choose to ignore them, but being in fandom can be tricky diplomacy—they might get pissed. You might get wank. If you don’t care about wank, then great. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawing things just because you know some fangirls will eat it up. There’s no harm in playing to the crowd.
- You won’t get the feedback you want. Most people in fandom are not artists. They don’t know how to talk about art. They’re excited to see a character they love, and that’s usually as far as it goes. You’ll be lucky if they comment at all, let along use complete sentences. So don’t expect more from them than they can give. When you do find the folks who like to write novels about your work, send those people bags of gold. BAGS OF GOLD.
- You will develop a very distorted view of your own work. Artists are self-conscious, and we assume everyone is looking at us. They might be, or they might not be. I haven’t figured out which is worse. But whatever feedback you’re getting, remember that 99% of exclamation points are not sincere. And that’s okay. People have split-second reactions to art, and emotional investment on the internet can be extremely superficial. Plus, again, most people in fandom don’t know how to talk about art, and they don’t care to. So if you’re in the middle of a freakout, worried that everyone hates you or whatever, take a deep breath and remember that people are probably not thinking about you and your work when they’re away from their computers (unless they are, in which case, congratulations, those are friends).
- Don’t waste a fandom. If you find the inspiration, draw the fuck out of it. Don’t apologize for your enthusiasm. Don’t apologize for your eighty-eight Castiels (shut up, it wasn’t that many). Fandom is a little bit like a sickness. One day, it hits you, and it’s all you can think about. And then, one day, just as quickly, it goes away. Enjoy the fandom buzz while you’ve got it.
- Keep a pseudonym. I’m on thin ice with Euclase. There’s a point when it just doesn’t matter anymore, and everybody knows your fucking art. But pseudonyms, especially if you’re a beginning artist, are useful, and they offer protection. They allow you the opportunity to escape if you need to. If you’re like me, and you have no shame, and whatever, I drew his peen IDGAF, then maybe you don’t need one. But they’re still useful. If you’re under 18, definitely have one. Protect your identity.
- Imagine your mom finding your art. Or better yet, your grandma. Ask yourself: Is this masterpiece of slash porn something I wouldn’t mind explaining to my mother? You can avoid a lot of the problems associated with fanart simply by not posting it in the first place. Or by making damn well and bloody sure mom never ever sees it.
- Find other fanartists. DEMAND TO HANG OUT WITH THEM ON THREAT OF BLOODSHED. This tactic totally works.
- Have fun. When it stops being fun, change your routine until it’s fun again. Remember: Everyone is a nerd about something. The one thing shitbags can’t beat is a contribution from a fangirl having a blast. The only thing you have to do is make fanart and respect other people who make fanart. Hate and wank have got nothing on enthusiasm. You beat everyone just by drawing.The end. :)
Feel free to add your own advice, observations, etc.
Then there is the opposite of 5. People will cry their brains out because you can’t be insta-friends with them. Or they will be scared of you because you are an alien from another planet.