|Synonyms:||OC, Art OC|
|See also:||Self-Insert, SI OC, Fanart|
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A Sona, also know as an Art Persona, Art OC, or a fandom-specific name, is a fanart of an original character design. The design often represents, who is not in canon but whose design is referenced from a fandom. They are distinct from self-inserts because the focus is on character design, and the sona is not made for the purpose of interacting with canon characters. Creating a sona may be part of a challenge or hashtag.
Sonas likely originated with the fursona from Furry fandom. Fursonas have long been a "character, persona, alter ego, avatar, or identity assumed by a person or player normally associated with the furry fandom." The origins of the fursona concept and its role in furry fandom today are difficult to pin down to specific dates, but it in Western society in the 1970s and 1980s due to the growing clout of roleplaying gaming (including live-action, tabletop, computer multi-player, etc.) induced the adoption or self-creation of highly-stylized, often genre-specific alter-egos for RP purposes among specific audiences.
Such characters often did not need to be written into written narratives, but were instead buoyed by being a general-purpose alter-ego for the RPer or costumer. This difference from the traditional idea of the character as being driven by stories of fiction allowed for the "favorite character" or "custom-made character" to be shifted to the "alter-ego", "alternative persona" or "fursona".
Personas are usually rendered in art. Often there is a profile showing off the sona's character design.
The terms and agreed-upon tags for sonas are usually fandom-specific. A noun, usually related to the species of the character, is placed before -sona.
Following Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spidersonas became extremely widespread. This popularized the concept of the -sona, leading to the creation of -sonas for different fandoms outside of widespread trends.
Self-Insertion in Fan Art
Drawing Someone Else's Self-Insert
There is a disparity between writing other people's sonas and drawing other people's sonas, which could be explained by differences in commission culture between fan authors and fanartists. While self-insertion for writing pretty exclusively deals with the author inserting themselves into their work, self-insert fanart is sometimes done on commission or by request.
In a 1975 issue of the Star Trek:TOS zine A Piece of the Action, a fan had an ad offering to paint other fans in fantasy settings, with prices started at 9x12 for $25.00 and going up to 18x24 for $59.00. The advertisement read:
Imagine yourself in an incredable [sic] ST, SF or fantasy adventure. Now imagine that adventure made into a lovely full color, hand painted picture for a very reasonable price. Just send exact details of the scene and a clear picture of yourself...
If you've ever dreamed of becoming a part of the world of the Tunnels, I can whisk you there with the stroke of a "Magic Pencil." Picture yourself interacting with Vincent or chatting with Catherine. Perhaps you'd like to go exploring with Mouse or Jamie or just share a cup of tea with Father in his study. All of things are possible.... The figures, Tunnel clothing, and the chambers will be finely rendered in detail. The emotion, feeling, and sentiment will be appropriate to the action in the drawing. You will feel that you are really a part of the world Below.
The fan artist Pyracantha explains her choices in a piece of art drawn for one of her friends:
Some of my friends are, or were so devoted to the imaginary worlds of their favorite fantasy authors that they wanted to live there, or at least be depicted as living there, so they could live the adventurous life as well as meet their favorite characters in "real life." This drawing is the result of a commission by a friend who had herself placed in Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni" world so that she could encounter her much-loved Dr. Rhys Thuryn, a psychic healer. I had to depict her as ailing but of course not dying. This friend/client is often sick with colds and flu since she works in elementary school with germ-laden children, so being healed of the flu is something much to be desired. Psychic healing is a big theme in fantasy fandom and most stories have some variant of it. I have observed that the fantasy fan community has a lot of ill-health and chronic disorders so perhaps that's behind the strong "healing" element in fantasy.— Deryni Healing My Friend (May 20, 2015)
In 1983, a Dark Shadows fan offered to incorporate a real person into a Dark Shadows portrait.
Drawing One's Own Self-Insert
Many fan artists who draw self-insertion do so because it's comforting and allows them to escape. One fan artist said:
Self-insert is expression. It shows that our love for the fandoms and how much we want to appreciate the characters we have fallen for.
Self-insert is comfort. Sometimes, in life, drawing yourself in the arms of a favorite character boosts up a cheer and makes the artist feel better because it only applies to them.Self-insert is an escape. When we want to handle something right now in the real world, our imagination can take us away, even for a little bit, before we're ready to face life.
Another fanartist explains that she draws herself as a self-insert in every fandom she's in, because:
The reason that I love self-inserts so much is because for the longest time, I didn't like myself. I was really insecure, I didn't like my face, I didn't like my voice, I didn't like anything about me — I didn't like my characteristics, I thought I was just a living, breathing waste of space.
[...]Basically, the reason I love self-inserts so much is because when I started to create these self-inserts and create these character designs that were based off of me, and my appearance, and my personality traits... I started to love those things about myself, which was not something that was easy for me to do before. There's still things that I struggle with, there's still things about myself that I really don't like, but it's easier for me to come to terms with those things whenever I project them onto these self-inserts.
Fandoms with notable sona art trends.
- Steven Universe - Gemsona
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - Spidersona
- Homestuck - Fantroll and Trollsona
- Boku no Hero Academia - BNHA OC
The BNHA OC and Spidersona trend are notable for rarely being intended to represent the artist, and are not self-inserts.
Fantrolls as well as Trollsonas.
Many Homestruck fans create their own troll or human avatars for RPcomplete with art and typing quirks. There is a generator available to make them, a wiki specifically for fantrolls, and several forum posts and tumblrs about fantrolls.
According to the FAQ on the Gemsona Archive on Tumblr:
Series creator Rebecca Sugar also encouraged this in an AMA:q: What is a Gemsona?
a: Its just you as a Crystal Gem from Steven Universe! That’s literally it!
q: Can I make one?a: Of course you can, I don’t know what you gotta’ ask!
I am Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, and former Adventure Time storyboarder, AMA!
pearlgirl413: Hi Rebecca! I'm a huge fan of your work! One thing I'm a little curious about is what's your opinion on the gemsonas? (People recreating themselves as crystal gems/Crystal Gem Fan Characters)
- RebeccaSugar[S]: I love them. I love them! Please make them, and fuse them with each other!
Spidersonas became popular after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which deals with parallel and alternate realities and, to some extent, legacy heroes. The concept of a multiverse is also a part of Marvel and Spider-Man comics.
- Spidersonas are a joyous celebration of Into the Spider-Verse’s message
- #spidersona hashtag on Twitter
- Fursona on Wikifur, retrieved June 2019
- KiaraLPhoenix,The Art of Self-Insert Posted 12 September 2013. Accessed 14 October 2018.
- CaezHel, Self Inserts: The Good & The Bad. Posted 20 September 2017. Accessed 14 October 2018.
- Examples: Fantroll Evaluations, F-yeah Fantrollreviews, fuck yeah awesome fantrolls, and fuck yeah awful fantrolls
- The World Of Steven Universe. "Steven Universe - U.G.R.V. (Clip) Say Uncle." YouTube. YouTube, 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
- "Gemsona Archive - FAQ".