How dedicated can a person be when they’re in a fandom? Answer: Very. Some people collect official merchandise, some people dress up as their favourite characters—but there are people who create their own works of art and sell them at festivals/conventions.
We’re not talking about things like this:
More like this:
Fan-made artwork and merchandise are nothing too new in Malaysia, especially among the anime/manga crowd. The annual Comic Fiesta provides booths for these artists to show off their work and also sell them as merchandises in the form of badges, prints, fan-books, and more. Last December, the event attracted 45,000 visitors over two days. We talk to the people who have had their own booths at this event (and other anime/manga-related conventions):
Citing illustrators Ayami Kojima, Emma Skye and Alfons Mucha as her inspirations, Serah has been selling her work at conventions and works as a senior digital designer.
Natsu has been drawing fan arts for 18 years, and has more than 6,500 Likes on her Facebook page where she posts her art.
Charlene has had more than 1,000 reblogs for her art on Tumblr, and has gotten international orders for her work.
Having participated in comic-related events in Singapore, Vancouver and Sydney, Kidchan started off drawing Doraemon comics as a kid. Now, she draws for a living.
Dealing with art
It may seem like these artists are doing this purely for fun and out of their love for manga/anime. However, they’ve put more thought into their works than you expect.
“[Drawing] is a form of release for me,” Serah tells us. “I want to share the visions and stories in my mind.” Along with manga-inspired art, she also works on original stories that capture the gentle sadness that everything in life is temporary. Currently, she is working on creating a children’s book about how her late hedgehog, Tripod, came into her life.
Drawing isn’t always smooth sailing, though. After talking to these talented artists, we discovered that each had their own challenges to overcome, such as the struggle to meet deadlines, trying to find their own distinctive style and conveying emotions through their work.
Striking a work/hobby balance
It’s (understandably) not an easy feat to maintain such a hobby while having a full time job. Serah lets in to us that she works as a digital designer for an agency during the day, and her position requires her to be alert all the time. If she’s working on a book, she’ll try to draw two to three pages a night. “I don’t compromise on my sleep, though, as I really can’t function on less than five hours of sleep,” she adds.
Natsu is a postgrad student and a research assistant, and still participates in Comic Fiesta. Initially, she was motivated to participate because of the cosplay events, but she decided to do something that could earn her cash and entertainment. "What gets me excited about boothing at events are the other artists I’d be able to know and learn a thing or two from! Everyone is incredible!”
Is it profitable?
No, they’re not rolling in dough because of their works (that’s the dream!). Then again, they’re not exactly in it for the money. “Profit isn’t my goal when I create comics,” Charlene tells us. “My own goal is to get my money for booth fee, transport and printing back—and if I have a bit leftover money for dinner, then I consider it a good day.
[Fan-works] do sell more than originals, but that’s because the subject matter is already familiar with the general audience,” Serah explains. “But that doesn’t mean originals don’t sell well either—I feel that if your art is good and appealing, it’ll sell.”
“It’s profitable, emotional-wise,” Kidchan adds.
If you want to do it…
Then, do it!
“Even if it’s a rare series you’re into and have the burning desire to draw for it, I say go for it,” Serah advises. “The love you have will definitely show in your work and people can tell. At the end of the day, the question you should always ask yourself is: Am I doing this for fun or purely for profit?”
That’s not all there is to it, though. For those who are seriously planning to create their own products, Natsu tells them to do research on what’s trending in the series, the type of merchandisers, suppliers as well as the market prices. “Don’t hesitate to ask around because it’ll save you from unwanted inventories,” she elaborates.
Once you enter the world of fan-made merchandise and art, don’t get too excited and try to do everything as if you have eight pairs of hands! “You should be clear of your goals and work towards it. If you’re just starting out, you won’t be able to accomplish a lot, so it’s better to start out small and work towards what you want to achieve,” Charlene says.
Where can you buy/view their art/merchandise?
Serah: http://silentmight.tumblr.com (art blog with regular updates)
Kidchan: http://www.pcstore.com.tw/g77shop/S014VK1.htm & https://www.facebook.com/cyanparade/