Blog / 2016 / Is Fan Art Real Art?

August 5, 2016

The other day, I attended a sand sculpture contest. This wasn’t one of those flashy professional deals where the art is towering and impossible, shellacked into place and completely beyond anyone’s expectation for such a humble medium. No, this was the average beach-goer going for something different on this particular day, and it was lovely.

But it also left me wondering about fan art, because the majority of the sculptures were just that. They referenced current movies and current events, with several popular characters making multiple appearances.

By comparison, the original art pieces were sweet. They lacked definition, as if the artists didn’t quite know how to solidify their vision without copying directly from a model, but that was fine by me. They were way more interesting because they weren’t following some prepackaged story line. I ended up searching the artists’ faces, trying to figure out what inspired them.

sand photography

Fan art always rides on the popularity of the thing it refers to. In the best of fan art, the artist’s personality shines through, but it remains an impersonal kind of personality. Fan artists may display their taste, their ability, and some of their character when they create, but they keep their most vulnerable bits safely behind the wall of pop culture. That’s just how the genre works.

All art is a kind of translation, and all artists filter outside influences through themselves to create their expressions. It’s just that fan artists do less filtering than other artists. That’s okay, and it appeals to a lot of viewers, but it’s not nearly as daring or courageous as other kinds of art.

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