Why Make Fan Art?

The question of “WHY MAKE FAN ART?” crossed my mind, as I was, not coincidentally, making fan art. I suppose this question is similar to WHY BUY COMIC MERCHANDISE? or WHY DO COSPLAY? and I suppose the answers are related. As for me, stemming from a combination of a New Year’s resolution to make more more more often, and the excitement of entering the table lottery for SPX 2014, I decided to fulfill a months-old promise to make fan art for one of my favorite webcomics, Scaredemy by Jack Slade.  If you haven’t heard about or come across Scaredemy before, CLICK HERE now and then come back later to read this post.

Scaredemy by Jack Slade

This brilliantly executed comic takes the best of school-aged (and school located) themes and situations (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson et al), puts a “monster” twist on the genre, and presents it in a way that makes me wax nostalgic about my Disney Afternoon watching days of my youth. I think what makes this comic so good is that it is character-focused and I think has its roots in situations comedy TV shows (a.k.a. Sitcoms). What makes me say that? Well, Scaredemy is not a gag-a-day comic strip, but I don’t really consider it a longform comic either.  Situations arise and then the situations are resolved over the course of a couple strips.  This kind of “situation comedy” is what makes me like TV shows like Bob’s Burgers a million times more than Family Guy and any Simpsons episode past season 8 or so.  I don’t appreciate endless sequences of non sequitur statements and cut-aways.  And if you take beloved characters you grew up with and turn the comic or cartoon simply into a delivery system for social commentary or celebrity guest stars, I don’t see the point. For comics (either printed on paper or online), I have to like the characters, enjoy the humor, and appreciate the artistic merits.

Some random strips of Scaredemy

Here are some random strips, check out more at Scaredemy.com

So, the answer to my initial quesion WHY MAKE FAN ART? is a simple one: because you are a fan.  This may sound like a simplistic answer, but I don’t think it is.  Having been on social media for a couple of years now with Ink Puddle and my own comic The Devil & Mr. Gandhi, there is a lot of fan art exchange going on where creators will make and share and promote “guest” strips and featured fan art of other comic creators.  This is an extremely supportive, friendly, and positive thing in my opinion.  But, I suspect there is a lot of quid pro quo going on as well.  I get a little uncomfortable when I see Twitter conversations where creators are asking another creator to do a guest strip. I myself was lucky enough to have a piece of art done by a Twitter friend who did the art as a kind of prize for having reached a certain amount of Twitter followers. It certainly wasn’t fan art, because the strip hadn’t even been started yet!  Also, having been to SPX in 2013, I know that intermingled with the largely supportive vibe of that event, there was a lot of sometimes mean complaints lodged against comic creators who wanted to “trade” comics, meaning no money exchange, just a comic book exchanged for a comic book.  Obviously, this is not always a fair trade between creators, and sometimes people are not the nicest about the inequality of the trade.  Webcomics are different in that although time may be spent on the guest strip or fan art, it’s more about sharing exposure online, but I have to tell you that this has made me hesitate to offer my art to others or ask others to submit a guest strip or fan art to me. So, although I am not opposed to trading exposure and art and comic strips, for me to make fan art, I really have to be a fan of the strip or the creator. And for Jack Slade and his Scaredemy, it’s a no-brainer. I am a big time fan.

So, I wanted to make a piece of fan art myself for this strip, because I am a fan. Perhaps because I am quite hirsute myself, I gravitated towards Wolfric.  First, I started off by reading through some strips to get a feel for the way the character is drawn. I literally sketched very quickly what I saw on my computer screen and wrote down some notes.

Wolfric fan art

I love how Jack does his overlapping of body parts, clothing, etc. to make the characters more multi-dimensional.  The school uniform is a great way to add “uniformity” to the strip and it connects the characters.  I then figured out that I was making Wolfric fat, and getting the dimensions wrong, but had ideas on changes to make, which got me to the sketches below.  This was where I figured out what I wanted Wolfric to be doing, which direction to face.

wolfric_sketch2

I definitely had to make him skinnier, and widen the distance between his eyes. When it came time to actually lay down some blue lines on bristol, I had to tighten some things up.  I am still looking to make changes, though.  Needed to add some angles to Wolfric’s hair, his ear, and make his arm less fat.wolfric_sketch_blue

I am sure I will make some additional changes to this drawing before actually inking this.  And I will update this post after I ink, scan, color, and finish this piece of fan art.

It is still a bit intimidating to me to think about offering up a guest strip or anything bigger than a piece of fan art.  I definitely want to start exchanging fan art and guest strips with some of the awesome comic creators I have met through Twitter and other social media outlets, but I still feel like inspiration has to hit, and I have to be a true fan of the comic or creator for me to even start thinking about doing that.  And I don’t want another creator to think that I would expect something in return.  I enjoy commissioning pieces of art (paying with money) that involve my characters, regardless of whether the artist is a fan or not. I think for me answering the question of WHY MAKE FAN ART? in this blog post was a way for me to justify to myself why I haven’t done more fan art and submitted guest strips.  And maybe my opinion on the topic and my willingness to get out of my safety zone when it comes to putting myself and my comic out there for more people to see will change this year, but it has been a topic that has weighed on my mind for some time now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and practice of “fan art” and “guest comic strips.” Leave a comment or tweet me at @inkpuddle.

UPDATE:

Here is the progression and the final product of my Scaredemy fan art.

Wolfric Progression

Wolfric from Scaredemy

 

 

Comments

  1. Great post!

    I know that when I make fan art, it lets me really examine the process, shapes, and lines they use to represent their character. I feel like it helps me find out some of their secrets or nuances. The same thing happens on guest strips, to a slightly larger degree. To me a good guest strip is one that can stay in cannon and has the humor stylings and pacing of the original comic.

    Of course saying all this is just the beginning (at least for me) because when doing a piece of fan art or guest strip you need to take those elements and then put your own spin on it. You have to find the gap between your style and theirs. I kinda think of it as a cover song, sure you can do a straight cover, but where is the fun in that? The best covers are something that takes a big part from the original artist but adds a new layer or dimension.

    Now have I always been successful at that? Probably Most Definitely not, but each piece has helped me understand another artist’s style or storytelling, and has helped me better defined mine own.

    Sorry this all got a bit ramblingy.

    • Not ramblinly at all, Wes. You make great points. Like I mention, I enjoy making notes on aspects and elements in another creator’s art I can notice and identify. And I want to copy the major characteristics of a character, but like you said, put my own spin on it. I set myself a point of no return where I do not go back and look at the original art or reference. I love your guest comic at Lunarbaboon, I think it captures the humor of his strip, keeps his graytone color palette, but at the same time the art is undeniably yours.

  2. This is an exceptional article, Pat. Your work-in-progress thoughts on your drawing of Wolfric are quite interesting and revealing. One of the most fascinating parts of being an artist these days is the ability to reveal the creation process to others, even as we do them. It’s a very fun and witty drawing, too, I might add.

    • Very kind words, Mark, thank you. And I agree, we no longer have to wait until an artist is dead and buried before we look at their works-in-progress, and see on paper their trial runs, their ideas (good and bad) and see how the final product became what we see in the end. I often pester Twitter folk to do art process posts, so you can imagine I would love to see even more of the various incarnations of Zombie Boy. I would love to see how he went from the comics below to the Zombie Boy we know and love today!
      Zombie Boy

  3. Fantastic post, Pat. I really enjoyed seeing your early attempts at drawing Jack’s character and how all of that study evolved into the finished piece. Thanks for posting this. -v

    • Thanks, Vince. I already have a Bigfoot fan art idea that makes me laugh (isn’t hard to do). I just need a bit more time to get to it.

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