As artists, we all fall in love with characters and stories and naturally, we get inspired by them. We want to draw depictions of our favorite scenes, draw portraits of our favorite heroes, and make beautiful word art out of our favorite quotes. Soon, you\u2019ve collected a lot of great art inspired by your favorite TV shows, comics, books, and more. What can you do with it? Can you put fan art in your portfolio?\n\n\n\nDue to copyright laws, it is illegal to sell fan art without written permission from the copyright holder. It\u2019s ok to put fan art in your portfolio as long as you never plan to sell it and solely use it to demonstrate your art skills or for your own enjoyment.\n\n\n\nI know that the waters of fan art seem murky. That\u2019s ok. They\u2019ve been murky to EVERY artist since the invention of art. It\u2019s just that things have gotten more complicated since our modern boom of entertainment and digital media. Let\u2019s dive into the issue of fan art and see if we can clear up the murky waters just a bit.\n\n\n\nIn order to understand whether fan art belongs in your portfolio or not, we need to start off with the basics of selling fan art. The rules and \u201cno nos\u201d around selling fan art establish a strong foundation for understanding what you can and can\u2019t do with it.\n\n\n\nCan I Sell Fan Art?\n\n\n\nIt is illegal to sell fan art without written permission from the owner of the copyright. For example, if you want to sell a piece of art that has Mickey Mouse on it, you have to get written permission from Disney in order to do so. This applies whether you\u2019re selling your picture to your neighbor, or if you\u2019re mass producing it for thousands of customers. \n\n\n\nGetting permission to sell renditions of Mickey Mouse is a bit more complicated than getting a cute little note from Disney. In fact, it can be quite a process. What you\u2019re doing is actually entering into a business relationship with Disney whereby they receive royalties for every image of Mickey Mouse you sell. In return, they\u2019ll let you license him. The royalties they receive are basically the fee you pay for profiting off of their original work. \n\n\n\nGetting a license for a character is no small thing.\n\n\n\nThis begs the question then:\n\n\n\nIf licensing is so complicated, how is it that so many people have done it? I see fan art for sale all over the internet.\u00a0\n\n\n\nThey probably haven\u2019t.\n\n\n\nEven without taking a poll of every single person who is selling fan art, a quick look at the internet can close to confirm that the majority of artists are not going through the hassle of getting licensing deals. If they were, there just wouldn\u2019t be as much fan art for sale. There would be no way. Licensing takes too long, is too complicated, and is too expensive.\n\n\n\nA lot of fan art is being sold illegally. Opinions vary on whether that\u2019s ethically ok or not. Some people believe that billion dollar companies shouldn\u2019t be stifling artists who are barely making enough money to get by. If selling a few artistic renditions of a character is going to put food on the table, that\u2019s the greater good.\u00a0\n\n\n\nCheck out more from Adventures with Art!\n\n\n\nAnd, wait. Isn\u2019t it in the best interest of the companies to encourage it instead of beat it down? Sure, they may sell a few less posters from their own factories, but the more art that\u2019s created around a series or character, the more that fans fall in love with it. It\u2019s free PR and promotion! \n\n\n\nOn the other hand, some people believe it\u2019s wrong and shouldn\u2019t be done. \n\n\n\nI think you can see where I fall on this side of the debate. That said, even though I believe that fan art should be legal, the truth is that it\u2019s not. I personally don\u2019t sell fan art for that reason. It\u2019s illegal.\u00a0\n\n\n\nBut, how are all of these artists getting away with selling fan art if it\u2019s illegal? Well, not all of them do. A lot of artists get their stores shut down for violating copyright laws. The ones that still exist are dancing on a very thin line. At any moment, the wind could blow and push them onto the wrong side of it. All it takes is for a company to decide to pinpoint their store and, poof, they\u2019re done. In addition to getting shut down, artists could end up in all kinds of legal hot water depending on the situation.\n\n\n\nSelling fan art? Just don\u2019t do it.\n\n\n\nOk, so selling fan art is really cut and dry. There\u2019s a lot of debate around it on the internet because artists desperately WANT it to be ok and are eager to find loopholes. In reality, it\u2019s easy. It\u2019s illegal and you shouldn\u2019t do it if you care about breaking the law. So, what does that mean for putting fan art into your portfolio? \n\n\n\nCan You Put Fan Art in Your Portfolio?\n\n\n\nThere\u2019s a HUGE difference between selling fan art and making it for your own personal enjoyment. To my knowledge, no company has ever come after a kid sketching in front of his TV during his favorite Saturday morning cartoon. \n\n\n\nIt is completely ok to have fan art in your portfolio for your personal enjoyment. It\u2019s also completely ok to draw your favorite characters as a way to practice your art skills, experiment with new techniques, and just enjoy art. \n\n\n\nFan art, personal enjoyment, we\u2019re all good there. Now let\u2019s talk about professional portfolios. Are you breaking any rules by including fan art?\n\n\n\nWhen we dive into the territory about showing your art to other people, we need to talk about plagiarism. As you know from your high school English classes, plagiarism is passing off someone else\u2019s work as your own. \n\n\n\nIt can be as extreme as making a photocopy of another piece of artwork, or as seemingly minor as recreating a character from your own TV show. If you call either of those pieces of artwork your own without giving credit to the original creators, both are plagiarism.\u00a0\n\n\n\nAnd, it\u2019s still plagiarism whether you show your art to the neighbor next store, or to the editor at The New York Times. The consequences might be different in either situation, but they\u2019re both plagiarism nonetheless. \n\n\n\nFirstly, if you\u2019re planning on putting fan art into your professional portfolio, be sure to give credit where credit is due. The people evaluating your work may not know the characters from your fan art and think that it was your own unique creation by mistake. That\u2019s an awkward conversation down the line. \n\n\n\nSecondly, even if the people evaluating your portfolio DO know the subject matter of your fan art, it leaves a bad impression to fail to give credit. Especially if you\u2019re applying for a job, do you want your interviewers to think that you take plagiarism so carelessly? For me, that would be a big turn off and a huge red flag.\n\n\n\nThirdly, ask yourself whether your fan art is the best depiction of your creativity and skills. Are you actually putting your best foot forward by using someone else\u2019s ideas to create your work? As an interviewer, I\u2019d learn a LOT more about you by seeing your own unique creations. \n\n\n\nAs long as you\u2019re giving credit where credit is due, you aren\u2019t doing anything wrong by including fan art in your portfolio. The real question is whether you want to. Does fan art display your talents in the best light? Is there other art you can include that better shows off your new, innovative, and creative tendencies? \n\n\n\nOf course, you need to consider the purpose of your portfolio. For example, I have a portfolio page here on my website. With credit, I wouldn\u2019t mind putting fan art up there. It\u2019s a collection of my work that people can casually peruse. Personally though, I wouldn\u2019t include that fan art in any professional capacity though. \n\n\n\nFan art can be a really great outlet for expressing your love for your favorite characters, and practicing your art skills. That said, never ever sell it without an official licensing agreement with the copyright owner. Also, never ever try to pass it as your own without giving credit where credit is due. But, if you abide by copyright laws and steer clear of plagiarism, fan art can be a fun addition to your personal portfolio.