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What is Fanart?

The Harry Potter series of books and movies inspired a lot of fan art.
A fan art drawing of manga characters.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2014
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Fanart, which can be singular or plural, can be defined as graphic representations of various media forms that have numerous fans. Many types of fanart exist, and they are similar to fanlit. In fanlit, people write stories, plays, or screenplays about characters or worlds that have already been created. As the name fan suggests, those who are significant fans of a certain character, show, fictional world or the like usually produce this work. With fanart, instead of writing, artists usually paint, draw, or use other graphic forms to copy, represent, explore or extend the life of a created character or world.

There are many examples of fanart, and these may start when kids are little and want to draw their favorite cartoon character. Those gifted in art may learn exactly how to draw or recreate something beloved from a comic book, TV show, video game or movie. One common area of fanart is reproductions of art based on Japanese manga and on anime. People may use a combination of drawing and writing to create further adventures of a comic book character.

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In addition to art inspired by manga or anime, very popular books and movies tend to be the inspiration for tons of fanart. For instance, the Harry Potter series, Tolkien’s work, the Star Wars series and others can stir up the souls of artists so that they create numerous representations of the characters or world. There are many online sites that feature fanart museums or galleries. Those who complete a piece of art may submit it to these sites for possible inclusion. Usually the only reward is sharing love of a particular fictional thing with others.

Most times, art inspired by created works is not sold. There is generally a distinction between a person who is licensed to create new stories about a favorite character or world, and those who simply do so because they love the characters or world. Usually new people hired to extend the creations of someone else are fans, and have a unique vision of how to proceed. As long as unlicensed fanart isn’t sold, artists usually don’t have to worry about violating copyright laws. This issue can get sticky when people do charge for their artistic works.

Artists who receive licensing or who are contracted to create new art may become inspirational to fan artists too. The work of Alan Lee, which is featured in Peter Jackson’s filmed version of The Lord of the Rings, for instance, is now captured in illustrated copies of Tolkien’s work. There are fan artists who copy Lee’s style or appear to be influenced greatly by it.

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