Sunday, April 10, 2016

Musical Fan Art and Me

A while ago, a friend and fellow blogger Pieta wrote a fascinating text (Finnish only) about musical fan art that really got me thinking. I'm a musical fanartist but I haven't ever really discussed the topic in this blog. Maybe it's about time!

One of my first pieces of musical fanart.
Cats in Lahden kaupunginteatteri. 2008.
Based on the production's poster.

My relationship with art is just like anyone else's who enjoys drawing: I've been drawing as long as I can remember. It's something I cannot not do. Attending art lessons, sketching my favourite movie and anime characters, always drawing in my sketchbook in school...

I have never aspired to become a "real" artist. First and foremost, drawing is a way for me to relax and to have fun. I've always enjoyed drawing fictional characters I like, so once I got into musical theatre, it was only natural I started sketching the characters I saw onstage.

Les Misérables. 2010.

Over my eight years as a musical fan so far, I've created hundreds and hundreds of pieces of musical fanart. Traditional, digital, drawings, paintings, quick sketches, comics, detailed drawings... My fanart archive has it all.

When a musical catches my attention, I enjoy reliving it via fanart. Often, drawings help me to process the experience. Many times, I feel I'm not really done with an interesting show if I haven't drawn a single sketch based on it. It's like the show keeps nagging at my brain until I put it down on paper, as a quick sketch or two at least.

Or as a character lineup. Les Misérables, Åbo Svenska Teater. 2010.
Les Misérables, Åbo Svenska Teater. 2012.
Based on a promotional image for the production.

Of course, seeing dozens of shows every year, there is no time to draw something based on all of them. Instead, I tend to focus on one favourite at a time.

For many many years, that number one favourite used to be Les Misérables. Les Mis has everything: period costumes, blood and action, fascinating relationships, serious characters to make fun of. Zombies? Laser? Cats? There are Les Mis drawings in my archives that feature it all.

Last page of a fancomic – Jean Valjean and Javert
enjoying a nice cup of tea. 2011.

The Hero of the Republic – Laser Enjolras. 2013.

Three Enjolrati about to overthrow a government. 2013.
This is one of my personal favourite drawings.

Nasty fandom infighting and finding new favourite shows has made Les Mis take a backseat in my brain for a while. I still return to it every now and then, but for the past two years, I've been especially fascinated by another show – the first Finnish production of Jekyll & Hyde in Turun kaupunginteatteri.

For reasons I cannot really explain (though I have tried), the show hit me like a ton of bricks. It invited me into its world and hasn't let me out ever since. The production's run ended two years ago, so I cannot see the show I fell in love with anymore. But via fanart, I can still travel back to Jekyll and Hyde's London.

Hyde feeling alive. 2014.
Based on Robert Seger's gorgeous photo.

Jekyll, Utterson and Sir Danvers Carew's port wine. 2014.
Another personal favourite.

Edward Hyde. 2015.

Lucy and Utterson. 2016.

Sometimes, it's fun to replicate production photos. But usually, my fanart isn't about repeating what I see onstage.

Whether it's changing character designs (if I think a character should have a new costume – or different hairline, nose or whatever than the actor portraying them onstage – in my drawings, it's within my power to make those changes) or coming up with new scenes for my favourite characters... I'm trying to put my own spin on the show in question, not to make a carbon copy of anything.

Glinda and Elphaba from Wicked. 2013.

Fanart gives me a way to explore the stories and characters further, to portray them in my own way. I suppose many fanfiction writers feel similarly about their texts. I think in many ways, it's the same thing, we just work with different media. We fans cannot alter the musical productions we see nor stage our own, but we can put our own interpretations and feelings on paper.

Fantine. 2013.

This is not to say all of my drawings are deep explorations of something. Some are to capture and share onstage moments that would otherwise be lost forever. And many of them are just for fun. I love making people smile and laugh with my drawings.

Some years ago, I often drew pictures that showed characters from different musicals getting together to have a party. One of my all-time favourite subjects is to show a character doing some silly thing that would never happen onstage. The more serious the character, the better!

A musical pyjama party. 2010.

Enjolras in a hurry. 2014.

And sometimes it's just very relaxing to sketch your favourite characters and forget everything that stresses you out for a while. First and foremost, I draw for myself. For my own amusement and artistic growth.

Some characters simply have a design that's fun to draw.
Judas, Åbo Svenska Teater's Jesus Christ Superstar. 2015.

Or Professor Abronsius.
Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's Tanz der Vampire. 2016.

Even so, it's nice to show others what I have created. I'm sure you've noticed that if you follow any of my social media accounts... Fanart can be a way of sharing an especially inspiring theatrical performance with others.

Father and daughter Carew.
Jyväskylän kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde. 2015.

And of course it's nice when my art gets noticed. If I'm feeling especially confident about some sketch, I may tag the theatre or actor who inspired it – and I always feel a little freaked out doing that. I want to show them that they made an impression on me and inspired me to draw, but at the same time... What if they don't like my drawing! A like or a comment from the person tagged can be a nice ego booster.

Some other drawings are, first and foremost, meant for my fellow fans. Sometimes, it's nice turning shared interpretations, fan theories or fandom inside jokes into drawings. Nothing better than making a fellow fan happy, or emotional.

Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri's Count von Krolock meets
Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's Count von Krolock. 2015. 

But even so, I would keep drawing musical fanart even if my sketches never got any likes. It's such an important way for me to process and relive the musicals I have seen.

Sarah's daydream. Loosely based on Helsingin kaupunginteatteri's
production of Tanz der Vampire. 2016.

It's not possible to draw fanart based on all shows I like. But when it comes to the most memorable experiences, the shows that really touch me, I think I will always keep a sketchpad on hand. It's one of my favourite feelings, a piece of theatre inspiring me to create something of my own.

My latest finished piece of fanart.
Utterson and Jekyll, Turun kaupunginteatteri's Jekyll & Hyde. 2016.


  1. These are just so... pretty, amazing and wonderful! Keep up the great work. And continue creating fanart!