Originality, familiarity, and the problem with Artist Alley.

A convention Artist Alley, a colorful table toward the back wall with a backdrop full of colorful, quirky poster prints hangs behind a portly young man, looking in effect, as that of a 'young santa'. A woman with a cane approaches the artist.

Hi! Enjoying the show so far?

Oh, I'm just stopping here for a minute to rest, I have bad knees so I just needed to stop for a minute, just waiting for my husband, this is all really more his thing...

Oh, well, I'm glad he's having fun, thank you for coming with him--

   The woman sees a print centered on the backdrop  behind the Artist; it is drawing of a Bulldog with hair reminiscent to that of Rosanne, the dog is also adorned with the classic June Cleaver pearl necklace and old fashioned cat eyed glasses. The whimsical text of the print simply says 'DOG MOM' in large, pale blue letters against a desaturated brown background.

Dog Mom? Interesting. You really should do a drawing of a Bulldog in the middle and it could say 'Marine Mom'

 The Artist looks at her, quite and politefully dumbfounded, the woman continues.

Woman: (cont'd)
I'm a Marine Mom, my son is in the Marines. 

That's nice. I do take on commissions for folk's more personal pieces.

    The Woman's Stepford smile fades into a more neutral displeasure. She looks for the next phrase to say, but comes up short. The woman then turns and walks away without further words.



I hate fan art. By that I mean I hate making mass produced pieces of recognizable characters simply because they are recognizable characters. 

That being said I do enjoy doing private commissions of a person's favorite character, because in working on those pieces, a person share a part of them and they offer unto you a trust to do right by them via their request for you to portray their hero. That I DO enjoy.

What I don't care for, and grow less fond of show by show is 'Fan Art' so much of it is bland and flavorless, void of personality, and in that way it really starts to describe the greater issues with conventions themselves now. Bland and flavorless with a broad mass appeal based on 'Hey! I recognize a thing!" 

I know a lot of fan artists in these allies, I consider them the closest thing I have to 'Work Friends' and I wish so much more for them. I'm not writing this to hurt any feelings. What they do they do well, and although fear for them ultimately getting that dreadful C&D letter, they knew what this was when they started. We all do even if we play dumb, at it's base level it's copyright infringement. Some would take this up to argue the rights of Fair Use, but most of us aren't doing much to change or improve upon said IP's so in that way it's not much different from the guy selling boot-leg DVDs at the flea market. But I wish them well, my distaste for it has nothing to do with them, we're all just trying to survive. MY complaint is more personal while also simultaneously much more broad. 

Simply put, I have nothing new to bring to these beloved characters and I feel like my time is better suited exploring new ideas with my drawings, That might be the single douchiest sentence I've ever written, but hear (read) me out. All the basic fan art tables usually have their versions of the staples:

1. Wolverine in short stop pose with claws out.
2. Batman brooding, usually on a gargoyle, usually with batsignal behind him
3. Slutty Harley Quinn
4. Deadpool doing something or combined with something else. 

You don't have much wiggle room with these and if you stray too far, perhaps into pun territory (for instance an Owl with short hair spiked and zany wearing 3d glasses, perched on a laser screwdriver 'Dr. Whoo") Too much, people don't like when you mess with a thing, they just want vanilla, they don't want any swirls...

I digress somewhat. I like drawing stupid, odd shit like a dog wearing pearls and a little mom-perm-fro, or a baby riding a piece of pizza through space. These are things that are silly, and mean nothing, or mean what ever you want them to mean. Pieces that make you think of something different maybe, something that makes you giggle, catches you off guard for a tick. I wanted to do that, but I thought I had to do fan art to survive, all the while dreading getting caught by the big companies for unlicensed use of their IPs.

It seems more and more at these shows that people just want the generic things they recognize. Not all people, and not you fine friends, but the general masses of droning sheeple. Sure, they may laugh at the joke, but they don't want to pay for it, FFS these folks don't even pay for porn anymore and they're doing a lot more than what I'm willing to provide so why would I expect to sell you a print of Optimus Prime's head on a steak when you already laughed at the punch of the joke. OPTIMUS PRIME RIB, I GET IT (walks to next table) Is it a problem inherent in trying to be a storyteller? I don't know, I know that in the moment of drawing things like Optimus Prime Rib, or Dog Mom, I feel the most fulfilled as an artist than when I'm trying to make sure I get the right red and black pattern on Deadpool so that I don't have to answer stupid questions at shows about, why does he have this when clearly he's suppose to like (blahrg).

I hate that I can't be contented with drawing characters everyone loves. I hate that I just don't think I have anything new to offer that sect of customer. I hate that I'd rather struggle a bit more to do my own thing my own way than to just shut up and draw PowerGirls tits more biggerer. But that's that. I don't like things anymore, this age of constant comic movies has soured these characters for me in so many ways, the constant hype train runs so long I can no longer see the engine or the caboose and I just stand here waiting for a 'right moment' to hop aboard. 

But even this recent Star Wars VIII trailer left me feeling bored and almost dead inside. I just don't care about any of these things anymore and I'd rather make new things, and I'd rather try to support others doing new things. The only things I buy from other artists at shows anymore are ashcan comics if they have them because it's a ton of work and they're out there doing their own thing. They're like the artist alley version of the guy selling his rap album to you in a gas station parking lot. Even if I'm not going to listen to it i still want to give you my money because I respect your hustle and I feel the pain of trying to make something and get it out there.  I goddamn respect you for trying to break the box built around you. Keep going. 

The song Juke Box Hero is one of my preshow songs, to get amped up. It's about chasing the dream and working your ass off to get there. It helps me get out of slumps sometimes too. 

Everything about the artist alley and the people who spill through them seems watered down and almost pointless, until you find that one person who connects with you through your work, and that's why I love all of you friends here. You just appreciate my work work for what it is, enough to continuously help my try to make more of it. And that's what I'm going to keep doing.

Fuck fan art.
Love you all!