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Confessions of a (bad) fan artist

12:00 PM on 11.28.2009 // Karen Mead

Japanator has often taken a moment to celebrate good fanart, but as we all know, not all fanart is good; in fact, the grand majority of it is nothing to write home about. I think it's about time to take a look at some fanart on the other end of the quality spectrum.

Now, it would be incredibly insensitive to prowl the internet for other people's fanart to make fun of; however, one of the advantages of being me is that I have a veritable treasure trove (so to speak) of my own poor fanart readily available for mockery. Of course, one of the disadvantages of being me is that I have a veritable treasure trove (so to speak) of my own poor fanart readily available for mockery.

Hit the jump for said mockery.

Digi

While I've done worse, I particularly dislike this one- probably because I don't watch Digi-Charat, and I just drew it for a contest or something. I can't even point to that much that's wrong with it, overall I just find it aggressively unlikable.

Bad fanart is a relative term; some people may look at some of the images in the gallery and say "this isn't actually that bad", because they were expecting a bunch of scribbles that barely look like anything, or something to that effect. The nice thing about a lot of my old stuff is that, while there is no polish to be found, the characters are generally recognizable, so you can always tell what the piece was supposed to be. A bad drawing where you can't even tell what the hell is going on is just plain bad, but a bad drawing that communicates an idea effectively still has some entertainment value.

On that note, going through my old fanart folder wasn't anywhere near as painful as I thought it was going to be. My pain was not mitigated by a lack of terrible, terrible art to be found (oh, for there was plenty), but because some of these drawings have more redeeming qualities than I remembered. Other than the possibility of being drawn poorly, the biggest problem with fanart is that it tends to be boring. Many fanartists (including those whom I consider very skilled) just draw a character in a particular pose and say "Look, I drew so-and-so." If the character is portrayed in a vastly different style from how they're typically drawn, then that can be a lot of fun, but all too often it's just "Hi, this is character X posing for your evaluation." And there's nothing wrong with that in truth, but personally, if I'm going to put in the time to draw a character who isn't mine, I want to take advantage of that character's personality.

Mashup of CCS and CB

This one exemplifies what I mean by bad fanart that still has some value- yeah, it looks pretty terrible, but I still like the idea of doing a Faye-styled version of Card Captor Sakura, with Spike filling in for Kero. I'm tempted to redraw it actually.

With a lot of these old things, the execution could have used a lot of improvement, but the idea was at least somewhat interesting. That doesn't make them good- I don't underrate the importance of skill. However, they are consistent with what I try to do in regard to fanart even now, meaning that there's a limit to how much they can embarrass me. Ironically, I find my personal drawings from years ago much more embarrassing, because they represent a person that I no longer recognize as myself. With this fanart, I recognize the desire to do more than my skills would comfortably allow, and that's still true of me today. I can't be embarrassed because I still have some respect for what I was trying to do.

A note on the images: some of these are so old that they seem to have gotten JPEG rot, but I feel that's acceptable for this particular piece, given that one of the tags is "FAIL!". I wanted to make it clear that the poor image quality is due to age, not because of anything on the Japanator end.

Sailor Asuka

I think I was 16 when I drew this, but it's still one of my favorite fanarts that I've drawn. I may be one of the only people who really wanted to see Asuka as a Sailor senshi, but the fact that even Unit 02 has a tiara makes it work for me. This one I wouldn't redraw, because even though I could do smoother coloring now, I doubt I could make a version that I liked more. In fairness, another thing that makes this one stand out is the fact that I obviously spent much more time on it than usual.

Okay, now that I've established that I don't consider any of this quite bad enough to make me want to commit sepukku, it's time to point out why most of these are just not very good.

Imagination Fail: Rei Ayanami and Sailor Mercury

Rei and Ami

Rei isn't that bad, but I don't know what I was trying to do here. Okay, putting Rei and Ami in the same piece because of their color scheme isn't a terrible idea- and I like the Eva/Sailor Moon mashup because it's just so ridiculous. If I'd drawn them fighting, or doing some kind of Shine Aqua Illusion +Lance of Longinus mega-combo, that could have looked cool. But no, they're both sitting on the floor, because apparently that's what I thought made for dramatic fanart in the year 2000. Even though I copped out by using easy, boring poses, I still screwed up Ami's pose- and let's not even get started about proportion.

Indecisiveness Fail: Character Mashup

Random

Besides whatever possessed me to mix Faye, Utena, and Lime from Saber Marionette J, there are loads of problems here. The fact that I didn't "draw-through" the figures is painfully obvious, since poor Faye is left without a pelvis, a part of her body I've no doubt she particularly values. But the real problem is the inconsistent finishing- I used colored pencils first, but noticing that my colored pencil stuff tends to look terrible when scanned, I tried to clean it up a bit on my computer. If I wanted to color it digitally, I should have done that, and if I wanted to use real media I should have taken the time to do it properly. I have learned since that the poor quality of my colored pencil scans had very little to do with the actual scan.

I have to admit that I still like the idea of making teams of seemingly unrelated anime characters and putting them all together into a composition. However, if I try something like that again any time soon, I will do everything within my power to make sure it looks absolutely nothing like this.

Nutrition Fail: Rei and Asuka, famine version

Asuka and Rei

I'm noticing a disturbing trend: whenever I drew a picture of Rei and someone else, the other person always looks much worse than my favorite blue-haired pilot. I'm afraid I might have been psychologically sabotaging my efforts to draw anyone other than Rei.

Apparently, I was once an abusive fanartist who starved my subjects and then made them assume incredibly uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. It is with the greatest, most solemn regret that I acknowledge the fact that I cannot say "no anime characters were harmed in the making of this drawing." Is redemption possible for black-hearted fanartists like me? Signs lead to "no."

Cleanliness Fail: Cowboy Bebop on the beach

Cowboy Bebop

I honestly can't remember if they were supposed to be sunbathing on the moon, or if it just looks like they're in space because of how dark and messy this picture is. Maybe it's because the style of Cowboy Bebop is normally so smooth, but I just find this incredibly depressing. Faye looks incredulous about being involved in any of this nonsense to begin with.

Hand Fail: Kaji and Fuyutsuki

Kaji and Fuyutsuki

There is a lot that I like about this, especially because it's rather unusual. In fact, it may be one of the better fanarts in existence of Kaji and Fuyutsuki together, because I'm one of the only people on earth who would bother to draw a symbolic representation of Kaji and Fuyutsuki's relationship, or WHATEVER- I don't remember. Anyway, this sidesteps many potential fails, but Kaji's incredibly messed up hands bring the whole thing down about ten notches. It's frustrating when you put a lot of effort into something, and later see that obvious anatomical flaws have made the whole thing look undeniably amateurish. Of course, I was an amateur (and pretty much still am), so what can you do.

Priorities Fail: Tifa Lockheart

Tifa

This is another example of "Good bad fanart", or fanart that I acknowledge is kind of bad but I still really like it. I spent a lot of time on this and it shows, but if I allotted so much time to work on this, why didn't I bother to check if her arms were the right length before I started doing the detail work? I just HAD to draw the individual treads on the bottom of Tifa's shoes, but taking the five seconds to sanity-check the original stick figure was apparently deemed unnecessary. This used to be typical for me; putting in insane amounts of detail, but running away from proper anatomy as though it were a scary monster. I should say that I've gotten a lot better about that in recent years, but as a result, I don't think I have the patience for detail work that I used to have. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that.

Probably Not Fail: Izuna, unemployed ninja

Izuna

After all of the fail, I decided that I should post at least one recent piece just to prove that I've gotten better- at least a little. I drew Izuna here about a year ago, so I can't chalk up any flaws with her to youthful inexperience. However, one area where I KNOW I've improved is creating cleaner images. Even when there are mistakes, my recent stuff usually looks smooth enough that it doesn't fail massively. However, just because I don't create massive fails like I used to doesn't mean I don't mess up in more subtle ways all the time, so don't think I'm patting myself on the back too much. In fact, looking at these reminds me how much I need to get off my ass and challenge myself, because I've been secure in the knowledge that, at the very least, I don't completely suck, for so long that I haven't been trying to get better, and letting that go on for much longer really would be a true fail. I mean, that would constitute genuine failure, as in "I am deeply disappointed with myself and I would give anything to turn back time", not the flippant, internet variety.

You can see more examples of my wonky art in the gallery- some pieces are a tad more recent, so they look a bit more competent, but all of them contain some element that's at least slightly off, if not cringe-worthy necessarily. And yes, Rei has boobs. You're welcome.

Photo Gallery: (37 images)
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Karen Mead, Contributor
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Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more   |   staff directory



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