A few days ago, I read something from ANN’s The Gallery series for the first time. In that series, they profile fan artists that could use a bit more exposure and this time it was about Stephanie Kao. I’d never heard of her before but she said some things I’d like to comment on, particularly since I’m going to a con this weekend and will take at least one cursory walk through Artists’ Alley.
Kao mentioned having to deal with negative reactions to her art style – a mix of traditional, anthro, and anime influences – from both the anime and the anthro (aka “furry”) fan communities. The first time it came up, she admitted it wasn’t easy to stick with the style she likes to draw in; the second time concerned putting together a recent sketchbook and deciding to push away some of the anthro-stuff from the front of it so more readers might be drawn in. I personally don’t mind anthro and I think it’s gotten a bit of a bad rap based on skewed perceptions about that broader community, such as a certain episode of CSI from 2003.
I don’t participate much in artists’ communities, fan art or otherwise, mainly because I’m not much of one myself. I can appreciate art on aesthetics (what it makes me feel) and mechanics (e.g. use of lines, empty spaces, etc.) and support a level of artistic freedom that lets artists work with as few restrictions as possible so that less diluted expressions of their intentions might be produced.
Kao also said “it makes [her] sad when artists feel like they must do fanart that they have no passion for”. I’m more inclined toward original works since their reception is not potentially hampered like prior conceptions about characters held by a collective audience, like fan art is, and because I get more pleasure in seeking out and experiencing new things than settling for what’s familiar. A potential risk for original stuff, though, is its lack of instant familiarity/recognition of their subjects that could be achieved through fan art. Determining at what place on that continuum an artist is most comfortable seems like it might help him/her in producing better work and enjoying it as well.