Magic Through Art: Once Upon A Time’s Fan-Art Community

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things about being a part of the fandom is the fan-art. Who knew that television watchers, that’s what we are after all, were such an amazingly talented group?

Well, it should have been obvious. Once is, in my not humble at all opinion, among the most inventive, imaginative, novel and fantastical television shows to hit the main stream since probably Buffy. Sure there are lots of great shows out there, but most fall into genre boxes that already exist. Then there’s Once, which upon its birth, defied the typical mold by eschewing the easy crowd pleasing genres. It’s not a procedural. It’s not a pure fantasy like Game of Thrones. It’s not a historical fiction. It’s not a crime driven drama. It’s not animated children’s (or adult’s) television. It’s not a space opera or other science fiction piece. Oh, and thank the gods it’s not a reality show. Even if I do have a soft place for cooking shows like MasterChef Junior. Once seems a bit out there on its own. For now (here’s hoping we can get more shows like Once in the future!).

It should have been obvious that Once fans are amazingly creative people because Once, being what it is, would clearly attract out of the box thinkers: those prone to flights of fancy, those whose inner worlds are populated by things on the edges of the bell curve. Yup, I’m a nerd. And I’m not alone!

All this creative energy is so wonderful because artists and writers and imagineers of all kinds come out of the woodwork to show us all they’re amazing stuff. Heck, Adam Horowitz hosts #FanArtFriday on Twitter (seems mostly when the show is running) just to show off how creative his fans are! The tide of positivity coming from the fandom’s artists lifts us all when we’re a part of these communities.

Feeling sad because something happened to your favorite character? Here, look at some art! Feeling excited because your favorite just had the best thing ever happen to them? Someone probably made art about that too. Not sure what you’re feeling and just want company? Visit the fandom and talk to an artist. They want to talk to you! At least I do.

What about the fan-artists themselves? What does the art do for them? Why are people rampantly making art about Once Upon A Time? Those are huge questions and there are undoubtedly a gazillion answers. While these artists are not officially affiliated with OUAT, they are a piece of how we experience Once. As a fan-artist myself, I feel like I’m part of something bigger than I am, like there’s just a little bit of Once’s magic in me. I hope Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Kitsis don’t mind.

Here’s a video about my fan-artist experience:

Read more about this project here.

Sharing something like this with a huge group such as a fandom helps me feel engaged as a fan. But, I’ll be honest, it’s also a little scary because those are some large emotions I just put on the screen for you. That’s probably just as true for any piece of fan-art you see. The artist is sharing their emotional world with you, even if not as explicitly as I just did.

As a potter, I spend a lot of time with other artists and one thing I know for certain about my compatriots: they love talking about art. Their art, other people’s art, your art. Oh, do we love to talk about art! Now maybe potters are just a chatty bunch, but I suspect the same is true for lots of other artists. I invite you to talk to the fan-artists you come across about their work! How’d they come up with the idea? How did they make whatever it is they made? How did their art make you feel?

See what I mean about what fan-art brings to our community? We all love to share it around and talk about that amazing drawing/painting/manipulation we saw. Heck, some corners of the fandom even have awards ceremonies which include art.

But. There is a little bit of fan history I should share that’s not so sunny, so I’ll keep it brief. The creators of books, television and movies weren’t always so supportive of fan work. The phenomenon of explicitly encouraging fan works is actually fairly recent. In the past, if you got caught making something of your own based off someone else’s intellectual property, copyright, you could be sued. For real and for serious, sued. The fanfiction world in particular was vulnerable to this and many older fics will prominently display a disclaimer making it clear that they are not making any money off the work and are not intending an infringement.

Nowadays “fair use” seems to be a bit more broadly protective of fan creativity. Many content originators now encourage fan activities because they actually increase fan engagement with the original work. It took them a while to see that, but it seems they have come around. Because of that, we have our wonderful and massive online communities which share our personal fan work with each other for everyone to enjoy. Yay for progress! (Disclaimer: this is not legal advice!)

So celebrate the fan-art! It’s marvelous to have access to thousands of artists we would never otherwise even hear about because you won’t find their work in galleries or museums. We all love to share fan-art around in our communities, that’s how we see it, but just make sure to keep the artists identifying info attached to the work so they get the credit when it goes viral. We may not be able to legally make money off of some of this work, but fan-artists can transform from amateurs into professionals because of recognition, so it’s super important to nurture that process.

That leads me to the part where I would like to repost all my favorite fan-art works, but I don’t have the permissions or the links I’d need to do this right. That could change if you, a fan-artist, want your work displayed here on this blog. We could definitely talk about that! I’d have to figure out how to make it work, but it shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.

So, with that happy thought, go forth and keep creating the fan-art which makes our fandoms amazing. And then go thank the content creators (actors, writers, crew, musicians etc.) for their hard work which makes all this possible.

Before you go, you can check out some of my projects! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!

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