It’s no surprise I’m a big fan of creating fan art. I firmly believe there’s experience to be had that cannot be replicated with originals.

As a professional, it’s important to be able to adapt to any design. Fan art forces the artist to be able to create compositions with existing designs, testing an artist’s ability to adapt. Whereas the artist is able to change, for instance, a character design to fit a composition, fan art forces the artist to change the composition to fit the designs.

That might be the most obvious benefit to doing fan art. However, I’m going to put something on the table that is less conspicuous and is the biggest difference between the two.

In any existing franchise, the audience has already created a connection with the world. When you create fan art, you’re essentially tapping into that existing emotion. Fan art tests the artist in reigniting that fire, creating something that the fans will truly appreciate.

Original concepts, on the other hand, is void of that. The emotional connection must be created from scratch. This means that the story must be told within the context of the image(s). Whether you do pin-ups or storyboarding, the audience must be able to appreciate it for what it is by itself, immersing them into the world.

I would argue both are very difficult in their own way. Either way, as an artist, it’s important to be versatile enough to do both. Clients will often ask for their designs to be visualized, so be prepared for anything!