Library Blog

Fan Art and Why It’s an Important Piece to Fandoms


You may be asking yourself what exactly is a fandom?  

According to Cambridge Dictionary, fandom is “the state of being a fan of someone or something, especially a very enthusiastic one” (2020). Other terms you may be familiar with when describing fandoms are groupbased like fan club, community, and fanbase, or individual-based like fangirl and fanboy; these are just different terms that fans can use to describe themselves. I think for me the defining feature of a fandom is the people that want more of the thing they love, and these people seek out ways to contribute and/or find others that feel the same way.  

When you find a television show, movie, or book that you connect with, it can inspire you to create something. Cosplay (the art of creating yourself into characters by sewing or making clothing, styling hair or wigs, makeup, and design), video compilations (usually with video of your favorite show or movie with music or combining scenes into a theme), fanfiction (written work), fan theories (threads about different theories about plots and characters), and fan art are just some of the ways to make something of your own using already established characters, settings, plots, etc.  

What is fan art? 

Fan art is “artwork based on popular works of fiction… that is created by fans” (Merriam-Webster). Art is a way to express one’s self.  It can be healing to the artist or those appreciating the art. Its more than the finished product, it’s the process of creating. Fan art usually represents characters, scenes, and settings of a work of fiction that is beloved. Usually done in the artists’ style and medium of choice. 

Fan art is usually loved within the community, but others do not think fan art is really a form of art. Fan art can sometimes be underappreciated by people for its unoriginality in concept or that the art is stealing ideas from other works that could be considered by some as copyright or trademark issues.  

Fan fiction and fan art are, usually, an infringement of the right of the copyright holder to prepare and license derivative works based on the originalHowever, many copyright holders, for good reasons, tolerate fan art and even encourage it, but this should not be taken as carte blanche to do what you want with the source material” (Bailey, 2010). Jonathan Bailey suggests learning about the community of the fandom in which you are interested. Generally, there have not been a lot of issues with fan art because it’s usually not damaging the original, and it is not cannon replacements of the original (meaning not the official version) (Bailey, 2010). In many ways, fan art is promotion for the work its inspired by and many times it can be considered “fair use”. Ruth Carter made a mnemonic device that can help artists to remember “the fair use factors…PAIN” which is purpose, amount, impact, and nature of the work (2014). If you’re interested, check out Bailey’s article: The Messy World of Fan Art Copyright or check out Ruth Carter’s Is it Fan Art or Copyright Infringement to learn more.  

How do you feel about fan art?  

Quite a few years ago, websites like DeviantArt and Tumblr were popular platforms that showed art created by anyone that wanted to share with other people. Now, Pinterest and other social media sites like Instagram are also ways to show off your passions and artwork to people. New or old, these websites are a way to view some amazing pieces of artwork.  

While I love looking at fanart by other people more than my own, here are a few of my examples of my own creation 

This is my fan art of Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender 

This is a piece of fan art I made for one of the challenges the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County did earlier this year. This art is of the main character of YA book: House of Salt and Sorrows 

Please share your favorite fandoms or your fan art with your local librarians, I promise you that we all have something that we love to talk about.  


Works Cited:  

Bailey, J. (2010) The Messy World of Fan Art and Copyright. PlagiarismToday. Retrieved from June 5, 2020, from 

Carter, R. (2014) Is it Fan Art or Copyright Infringement. Retrieved from June 5, 2020, from 

Fanart. 2020. (5 June 2020). 

Fandom. Cambridge Dictionary. 2020. (5 June 2020).