I spent the morning un-following a bunch of very talented people on Tumblr.
That feels like a really weird thing to say. And it is.
It was nearly a dozen different artists in all, and they were all extremely talented. Part of what moved me to Follow them in the first place was their skill. In…
Oh hang on, apparently it’s time for me to have an opinion.
The obnoxious thing about me replying to disagree with this… is that I actually kinda agree with it in a lot of ways. I think the distinction of “you are talented but you do not inspire me” is excellent wording, and that the OP was not at all wrong to unfollow people who weren’t providing that inspiration. Fanart doesn’t motivate the OP, and to recognise that and take the initiative to move away from it is really cool. I also think there’s a lot of fanart that IS just self-indulgent, non-critical “omg omg I love these characters let me make them kiss.” And, yeah, I’d like to see less shipping in general myself (but WHAT YOU GONNA DO).
But I think my problem with this post is generalisation (which is basically my problem with all of life so let me be more specific).
It’s a little weird to talk about how important thinking critically is, and how cool deconstruction is, and then say that fanart can’t be these things. What is the difference between Fallout Equestria and Watchmen? What is the difference between Hemostuck and Wicked? Both Wicked and Hemostuck (homestuck fanfic) look at the same characters in a new light, and examine relationships and character dynamics that MIGHT HAVE BEEN even if they aren’t stated in the original canon. Both Watchmen and Fallout Equestria (My Little Pony fanfic) take known tropes and archetypes introduced by their respective genres, and deconstruct them and take them to their logical extreme. Why is one acclaimed and the other immature? I’m not sure that I see a difference. There sure IS a lot of immature fanstuff. But I’m not sure that I’d judge it all that way.
The use of the word “immature” seems to point to this… fallacy-thing I run into a lot, where people assume that everyone follows the same path of development.
- “I used to be really passionate about my religion, but as I learned more I mellowed out and traded that emotion for wisdom. I see you full of passion, so I assume you must still be at the naive stage.”
- “I used to play D&D characters that were a lot like me, but then when I got more comfortable with it I started playing characters that were very different, and it was a satisfying challenge! I see you playing a character that’s a lot like you, so you must not be at my level yet.”
- “I used to be totally uninterested in boys too, but then I found THE ONE and now we’re married! I know you call yourself asexual, but that’s just because you haven’t found the right guy yet.”
- “I used to draw a lot of fanart, but now I really don’t. I moved on to my own stuff. I see you drawing a lot of fanart, so you must not have grown out of it yet.”
The problem with this way of thinking is that different people take different roads and find satisfaction in different things. Some people find D&D characters most satisfying when they’re a version of themselves. Some people have an undying passion as their strength, rather than a thing they must grow out of. And some people find fanart a satisfying way to exercise their creativity.
So, I would say that an artist can have a tumblr entirely filled with nothing but Adventure Time doodles and, really, you may well say “wow that’s not doing anything for me” and move on to someone who pushes you creatively. But there’s no space, in my opinion, to judge them immature for the work they choose to post.
ON THE FLIP SIDE HOWEVER
I think there’s an important message here all the same: fandom can so easily become a trap. I was tremendously saddened to read a response to the OP that said, in essence, “Well, yeah, I love my original work, but I’m sure nobody is interested in that, so I don’t post it.” That’s…. shoot, that’s a shame.
The truth of the matter is that the immediate reward that fanart brings can cause artists to give up on their personal work. It’s kind of like those drugs that make you happy but destroy your ability to produce endorphins. After the high that fanart brings, and how loved you feel when you get 200+ notes, the one or two people that really connect with your original stuff can seem so underwhelming. As artists, many of us can’t help but feel most validated when we connect with people, and fanart offers part of that connection ready-made.
While I think that putting down all fanart-heavy blogs was a dangerous way to try to get the point across, the point still stands. It’s worthwhile to look at your original work as a contribution that only you can make, and to strive to say the things you have to say. Even though fanart will always have a more enthusiastic response, you have to know and believe that telling YOUR story is valuable, if you have a story to tell.
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