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Understanding fan art: A glance at Melbourne’s fan art community

Wing Kuang

Fri Dec 08 2017


If you’re part of a fandom, you’ll know what it’s like to want to express your passion for a beloved series, character or real-life persona. Many will engage in online banter with others in the community around the things they love. Some may be inspired to write fan fiction, pairing characters in romantic relationships not depicted in the original property.

One of the most common means of fan appreciation, however, lies in fan art, where budding or established artists re-imagine what they see on screen and re-envision beloved characters in their own unique art style. This is especially true of anime fans, where what they see drawn on screen can give way to a whole range of new artistic interpretations.

At the recent 2017 edition of the Madman Anime Festival in Melbourne, fan artists were given the means to showcase and sell their fan art to others in the community at the Creators Zone (other conventions may also refer to this area as ‘artist alley’). We spoke with several of the artists to understand a little more about what they do and why they feel compelled to create.

Tiha90 (Fatiha Haque)

Photo: Wing Kuang

In 2013, after being a big fan of anime for many years, Fatiha attempted to draw her favourite character. She had no idea she could draw but it was from that experience that Fatiha caught the drawing bug. She hasn’t looked back since.

“I get to feel the character when drawing them on the paper,” she said. “I like to project my interpretation of the anime or manga into my work, and that freedom of creation brings the enjoyment.”

As a full-time pharmacist, finding time to draw and improve was difficult. She only had weekends to commit to her improving her fan art and was determined to keep that passion alive.

“It is something [where] if you stick to it, as long as you draw regularly, you can definitely see improvement, she said.

Seeing the opportunity to do more with her fan art, Fatiha decided to show off her work at Madman Anime Festival. It was her first time as an exhibitor anywhere and she admitted that she was nervous at the beginning of the convention. But after several chats with visitors, she found the experience rewarding and was delighted to share her thoughts with people who were equally enthusiastic about anime as she was.

To learn more about Fatiha’s works, check her website.  

Harem37 (Lisa)

Harem37 with friends and fellow artists at her store. | Photo: Wing Kuang

“Initially I [didn’t] think I [was] that great but my friends just told me to draw. Somehow I ended up going to conventions and selling things,” said Lisa, the owner of Harem37 who teamed up with her friend Millieechi for the festival. “You never know.”

Lisa has a long history of making fan art. When she was a child, she drew some of her favourite anime characters from shows such as Sailor Moon. As she got older, Lisa met a group of friends who also loved anime. They often shared thoughts and discussed what they watched, and gradually, Lisa’s friends encouraged her to continue drawing.

“My friends also liked drawing fan arts. Drawing characters from the same anime made them happy, and I want to make them happy as well,” Lisa said.

Drawing fan art has also benefited Lisa’s daily life as well. As an Information Technology student, Lisa has to sit in front of the computer for hours and uses her relaxation time away from the computer to draw.

While many creators opt to showcase their work on prints, Lisa enjoys selling smaller items such as stickers and charms, which are inspired by her previous experiences in conventions.

“As somebody who has gone to conventions before, I don’t really buy prints as I don’t have space. But things like charms, I can just put it on my bag,” Lisa said.

In Lisa’s future, she plans to create a fan book collecting all of her art. “I don’t have so many drawings at the moment, but I will work hard on it,” she said.

To see more of Lisa’s art, check out her Instagram

Austen Mengler

Austen (right) is fascinated by monsters and his art is reflective of it. | Photo: Wing Kuang

“Find what motivates you to draw and get better. Keep practising and don’t give up,” Austen Mengler suggested when asked about tips for beginners in fan art. “Just have fun.”

Austen is a freelance illustrator and concept artist. “I’ve been doing illustrating for my whole life, drawing since I was a little kid, working freelance since I left university, now working on Photoshop, working on pop culture things,” said Austen, who has been to conventions for the last four years.

Inspired by films and anime, Austen fell in love particularly with monsters. Monsters depicted as heroes were especially interesting to him.

“There’re lots of monsters inside our soul anyway,” said Austen. “I really wanted to bring it into the art work and [have] a lot of fun with it.”

From a fan art creator to professional illustrator, Austen said starting out as a fan artist was what guided his imagination and steered him into the profession. His next goal is to make more authentic art, and to have his work seen by even more people.

To see Austen’s amazing creations, check out his website.

Kelly MacMahon

Kelly’s stylish illustrations come equipped with their own feminine agenda. | Photo: Wing Kuang

Based in St Kilda, Kelly is a graphic designer working in commercial design. Although Madman Anime Festival was her first convention as an exhibitor, Kelly has been drawing fan art for a long time. Female anime characters such as Mikasa Ackerman from Attack on Titan and Asuka from Sword Art Online are especially prominent in Kelly’s work. More than just fan re-creations, Kelly uses her fan art as a means of promoting a supportive brand of feminism.

“Being girly is often seen as an opposition to strength,” said Kelly. “But what I love about anime is it gives you characters that are incredibly strong and incredibly independent, and they are still very feminine.”

Kelly cites Sailor Moon as a major inspiration and turning point for her as a child. “I like the way they [fight] and they are still very girly as they wear high heels and skirts,” she said. Kelly also adds that a lot of her own designs follow a similar aesthetic. “All my characters wear high heels and [have] long hair”.

In terms of recommendations for beginners, Kelly advised newbies to look towards support from the fan art community.

“You can have supportive communities online that will be excited about what you do and that can keep you going.”

She also advised beginners to have a glance at other artists’ works to get an idea on where to start.

Want to find out more about Kelly and view her illustrations? Check out her official webpage.