Fan art is everywhere and it’s making me mad.
My wife bought a mug from an artist. She purchased it from their online store and it was delivered to our house. On this mug there were two characters smiling at each other, as though meeting for the first time. It was fan art of two characters from her childhood in a mash-up, and seeing that in my house made me really mad.
Now to be fair, this is not a new practice. Fan artists have, in recent years, become increasingly bold in selling their versions of licensed characters in their online stores, and doing so until they get told to stop by the copyright holders. Fan art at conventions is as old as conventions themselves, and I’ve even purchased a few gorgeous pieces of my wife’s favorite characters for her in the past. But in the past, fan art used to be an aspect of this life and the conventions that celebrate them. Now it’s everywhere, and as someone who’s never resorted to selling a single piece of fan art in his life, it makes my blood boil.
Maybe I’m an old man shaking my fist at the new trends of these crazy kids nowadays. Or maybe I remember a time when artists fought tooth and nail to get their original work noticed, to get their unique ideas elevated to stand alongside established characters in our collective mythology, instead of chasing fandoms and pandering to them because it’s easier to sell artwork of characters that they already like.
Whenever we exhibit at conventions, we are almost always completely surrounded by fan art. I can regularly count on one hand the number of artists pushing their original ideas within any given artist alley at almost any given convention, and that breaks my heart. Playing this game on Hard mode, challenging people to try something they’ve never seen before on the strength of your creativity has taken a back seat to playing on Easy mode and pandering to popularity.
My poor wife got the brunt of this rant in a far less eloquent form, and by the end of it she felt really guilty about buying that mug. I didn’t mean to guilt her or make her feel bad. I was more aggravated and frustrated about the state of artwork in nerd culture than anything else, and it came out thanks to seeing a mash-up mug in my kitchen.