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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fan Art

Harry Potter and his nemesis, by Hito76           

Frank Sinatra, by Hantverk
I love to look at the work of talented amateur artists. Actually the work of some of the not-so-talented is fun to look at too. Outside of the classroom setting, nowhere is this type of art so easily found as in the form of "fan art" on the Internet. Usually it comes in the form of pencil drawings and almost always it's based upon photos from fan magazine. Thus the artist is at the mercy of the celebrity photographer. The quality of these can range from Paparazzi awful to exquisitely rendered photographic studio portraits. Fortunately, most would-be fan artists instinctively choose the latter. I might add that pencil drawings are notoriously hard to capture digitally. Even with some judicious photo adjustments (which I've done with the ones seen here) the results can be mediocre at best. The examples I've chosen here are (except for one or two) well above the mediocre level ranging up to the near-professional level as seen in our old friend Harry (above). Seldom does fan art rise to this level.
A teenage favorite at the moment is the boy-band One Direction. Group portraits tend to be a real challenge for any artist. This artist, named Ashleigh, seems to have mastered the art. (Note: when photographing pencil drawings, half-tones tend to fall away.)
Copyright, Jim Lane
Debbie Reynolds, 1963, Jim Lane
I'm not sure how far fan art goes back. Did Shakespeare have drawn portraits mailed to him by fans? Probably not, he wasn't young enough nor androgynous enough during his most productive years, and didn't appear on stage before adoring crowds in any case. The androgyny factor pretty much permeates virtually all male fan art (bottom). It would seem the more the boys look like girls the more the girls adore them. Glamorous beauty seems to be a key factor with female stars. Needless to say, neither androgyny nor great beauty lasts forever, and in fact, age seems to have something to do with fans' choice of subject matter (teens prevail, both as artists and subjects). I'd be remiss not to mention that I've done some fan art in my time. As I mentioned before, fan art magazines are usually a repository of outstanding (though heavily retouched) portrait photography. Back in the early 1960s, I cut my portrait eyeteeth drawing pictures from such magazines. The drawing of Debbie Reynolds (right) is one of my better ones.

Harry Styles. The linear qualities
of hair lend themselves to pen
drawing. Shaded areas, not so much.
Justin Bieber. Clothing texture
half-tones are easier than the
smoothness of facial areas.

Two faces, two artists, derived from the same photo.
Insofar as fan art is concerned the two most popular teen singing stars today appear to be Justin Bieber and Harry Styles (One Direction). The two fan portraits above, by the same artist, appear to be done in the unforgiving medium of ballpoint pen (probably over a pencil drawing). Two fan portraits of Beyoncé (below) give some indication of the wide range of quality fans often send their singing idols, or post on the Internet. In some cases it's fortunate most celebrities have a sense of humor...or a broad acceptance of widely varying drawing styles (right).

Beyoncé. I'm not sure, but this
drawing has many telltale
indications of having been traced,
and somewhat poorly at that. Notice
the differences in the two hands.
Beyoncé by Liberian Gurrl.
In colored pencil.
Fan artists, especially those of the female variety, are notably different from most artists. They are often very much "in love" with their subject. It drives them to struggle and strive far beyond what they might in drawing any other subject, except for a pet or a boyfriend (though both could be considered to involve an emotional attachment).
Selena Gomez as created though with
the simulation game Sims 3.
Selena Gomez in traditional pencil. As
is often the case trouble with the nose.
It's interesting to note that fan artists, while they continue choose traditional pencil drawing by a wide margin, are also embracing the newest tools of digital art (top). Justin Bieber's on-again-off-again love, Selena Gomez (below), offers an interesting contrast, a pencil drawing (below, left) and a digital screen capture created within the Sims 3 game. Although the Sims 3 was never intended as a means of drawing portraits, with an astute eye for proportions and details, not to mention way too much time on your hands, it does have tools lending itself to fan art.

With most fan artists, pretty boys reign.


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