Forms of Fandom: Part Four – Just Picture It

This ongoing series looks at the various ways people get involved in fandom. This issue, we’re looking at fanart.

Wanderers, we’ve looked at a few ways people express their fandom over the last few issues, but we’ve been missing a pretty well-known one. It’s time we fixed that. So, without further ado, let’s have a little think about fanart.

First of all, I want to point out that just as not all art is image-based, not all fanart is image-based either. However, for the purpose of this article let’s just assume that when I say ‘fanart’, I mean the still-image type. That includes drawings, paintings, photomanipulation… If it’s a picture you look at and it doesn’t move, we’re talking about that today.

So, what do people love so much about fanart? I’m not going to lie; when it comes to visual media, I’m not an expert. I write fanfiction and roleplay and do other things involving the written word. But I love seeing good fanart. Why? Well, because seeing is believing, I suppose. If fanfiction is an expression of ‘what if’, fanart can fill a similar void – indeed, I’ve seen some great fanart illustrating fanfictions – by showing you what it would look like if Elementary’s Sherlock and Joan were indeed to fall asleep together on the backseat of a bus, for example, or what Gallifrey might have been like in its heyday, complete with a young Doctor and Master playing tag in the fields. Describing those things is all very well, but sometimes you just want to see it. And that’s one of the many ways fan-artists come in.

It’s by no means the only way fanart can be used to express love for a fandom, though. How about those fantastic unofficial/alternative posters that have been circulating? I’m especially fond of the minimalist ones – they really cut to the heart of whatever it is they’re celebrating – but honestly, the sheer creativity of all those posters people are making is amazing (and way to brush up on your skills if you want to pursue a career in marketing). Then there are other marvels of design; I’ve seen tattoos, desktop wallpapers, t-shirt designs…

In a lot of ways, fanart is one of the fastest, clearest ways to display your fandom, whether that’s by having a doodle of a Pikachu on the front of your Maths book, wearing a shirt with the name of a fictional airline on it, or having a fantastically-edited ‘Believe Bertrand’ poster in pride of place on your wall. As a non-artist, I have to get my fix through consumption of other people’s masterpieces, but if you can express yourself that way you’ve got a really quick way to share the things you love and create something beautiful that lots of people can enjoy.

There are loads of really talented artists out there creating fantastic paintings and drawings of their favourite actors, characters and scenes. I saw – or thought I saw – a collection of screenshots of assorted films and shows, the other day. Then I read the caption: ‘my favourite drawings of 2012’. My mind was blown.

But as well as these examples of magnificent photorealistic skill, it’s also good to appreciate less detailed, more cartoonish or graphic-based art. Not only do these forms tend to have more distinctive styles – there are a few artists I can recognise at a glance, just based on their own art styles – but they also demonstrate the key ingredient to art: creativity.

Whether it’s Spiderman clinging to Captain America’s leg, begging to be allowed to join the Avengers, or Sherlock making a perfect landing in John’s arms from the top of St Bart’s, these images can convey powerful ‘feels‘ and be an expression of the artist’s own ideas. Drawings, paintings and photomanipulations can create scenes that never happened, scenes we’d love to see happen – or they can summarise an entire long conversation in a single image.

There are also some really talented graphic-makers out there; whether they’re colouring screencaps, adding song lyrics, or making those minimalist posters I was talking about earlier, they have the ability to enhance, clarify or even completely transform a scene or fandom. I’ve seen assorted fandoms’ witches edited green to plunge the whole fandom straight into Oz, and entire films turned on their head by emphasis on a particular prop or feature on a poster. There are some fairly simple-looking graphics – though they must have been a nightmare to create – which, through careful use of shape and colour, have completely blown my mind and shown me a different side of something I considered a favourite fandom.

From the creator’s point of view, you don’t actually have to be good at art to understand the satisfaction of watching something take shape and come to life at the end of your pencil or paintbrush. I drew a cow the other day and it came out looking like a cat, but until it went horribly wrong it was a brilliant feeling. In fact, if you’ve ever made anything you’re proud of, you can understand why an artist would enjoy creating something they could step back from and think ‘Wow. I did that.’

Fanart’s also one of the easiest forms of fandom to make into a commercially successful venture – although, of course, it can be a bit legally dubious to do so. But design-led shopping sites like Redbubble, Qwertee and Teefury allow your incredible fandom-based designs to be worn and loved by fans all over the world, and beside those there’s the potential to make them into everything from coffee mugs to mousemats.

So, basically, fanart is a striking and powerful way to express your fandom; you can use it to cheer people up or cripple them with feels, to help them express their own fandom and to make a little side cash so you can indulge more freely in yours. I’m a little in awe of all those of you who produce such fantastic stuff. Keep creating, Wanderers!

Eleanor Musgrove

We’ll be looking at another form of fandom in the next issue, so don’t forget to check back for that.

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