illustration career

Fan Art Illegal?! Things to Consider When You Make Fan Art

There's a range of opinions on whether artists should create fan art and the ethics of doing so. One might make fan art as a genuine expression of their fandom, as an opportunity to gain exposure for their art, to make money, or some mixture of all three motivations. I'm not looking to judge someone's choice in creating fan art, but from a strictly creative business stand-point, if you're making the majority of your sell-able artwork around intellectual properties that you don't own, this seems like tenuous footing for an artist to be in. Selling fan art's illegal and this isn't just some opinion I happen to hold, this is straight from the mouth of contract and intellectual property attorney acquaintance, Seth Polansky.


Watch Fan Art Illegal?! | Things to Consider When You Make Fan Art


Luckily few intellectual property holders crack-down on fan artists selling their work, but that's precisely the issue: if you make your living selling fan art based merchandise- you're relying on "luck" for your continued livelihood. I lurk an artist alley Facebook page and I've seen the occasional so-and-so animation studio's issuing take-down notices. And a take-down notice or a cease and desist form is a kind way for the copyright holders to go about it- who knows if we'll see an effort to slap-down this form of infringement in the same way that the music industry came down on some of those pirating music in the early to mid 2000's to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.





With the risks that are stake, I simply couldn't see putting all of my eggs in the fan art basket. I may occasionally do a fan art piece if the mood strikes me, but I definitely intend to make that the exception rather than the rule. What's your opinion on fan art? Do these considerations make you any less likely to make it?

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Make Better Art By Caring Less? 🎨

Is it possible to make better art by caring less? In my latest video, that's exactly the thesis I posit. As with any craft- playing music, dance, or the visual arts, once you get a firm handle on your rudimentary skills, you can accomplish greater works by not putting too much pressure or importance on any one individual work. If you're thinking beyond being in the moment of what you're doing in the present, you're hindering your ability to reach a flow state.


Watch Make Better Art By Caring Less


Flow State: In positive psychologyflow, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.


When I was younger, in art school and earlier, I'd often be paralyzed by the potential of things "going wrong" in a piece, which was an impediment to artistic growth. Had I adopted this Stoic-like philosophy of "is this the condition I so feared?" much earlier in my art-life, I'd likely be happier for it. Not to spend too much time on roads less traveled because on some level I wasn't ready to receive this life lesson, but within the last few years, I've become ready and that's ok too, to borrow another bit of immortal wisdom, "When the student is readythe teacher will appear.", and to a large extent that teacher was time and experience.

Let's put the number of works of art you're likely to make over the course of your life-time into perspective- let's say a given artist will average 1.5 pieces of art in a month, that's 18 completed artworks per year. Now let's say you'll have at least 40 productive years of making art- with that number of works and that time-frame, that's 720 finished artworks... and these are all using fairly modest estimates- there are plenty of artists that can and do complete 2-4 works of art in a month. Bearing that in mind, is the piece your working on right now all that significant in the grand scheme of things? If you let go and create without fear, it could be. It could be one of a handful of pieces of art that you're known for, but this becomes far less likely when you create in a state of fear and anxiety about the artwork's outcome. Hold-out for judgement on the outcome until your piece of art's completed.

Making art should be about making the best possible thing you're capable of creating in the stage you're at in your artistic journey at that moment. If you need to make bold changes, a drastic change in drawing, tone, or contrast, make it and go forward boldly, leave open that space for growth. And even if you fall flat on your face in the attempt, chances are, you've learned something that you can carry onto future artistic endeavors.