So You Want to Be a Fan Artist!

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Title: So You Want to Be a Fan Artist!
Creator: Beverly C. Zuk
Date(s): 1978
Medium: print
Fandom: focuses on Star Trek: TOS
Topic: fan art, zines
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So You Want to Be a Fan Artist! is an essay by Beverly C. Zuk.

It was intended to be a tutorial for the very beginning fan about how to draw and submit art to print zines, the only venue at the time for sharing fanart. Its focus was Star Trek: TOS.

The essay was printed in Archives #1.

Some Excerpts

Having spent the last year or two drooling over the works of Marty Siegrist, Gee Moaven, and Joni Wagner; and having been told by your art instructor in high school, or was it college, that you had the instincts of Jackson Pollock subtly controlled by the 'eye' of Hieronymus Bosch, you have finally nerved yourself up to giving yourself to fandom. The question now arisen is: How to go about doing it? You know from experience (after all, don't you have 36 drawings of Spock in the bottom drawer of your dresser, not counting the nude on the back of the closet door where you can see it when you're lying in bed, but your husband can't) that you can draw. The problem is convincing others, (besides your husband, who hates Spock).
The first thing to do is to decide who you would like to submit work to. Be conservative, select no more than six editors as targets. I'll explain why later. Once you've decided on your targets and have obtained their addresses (see the Welcommittee Directory if in doubt), choose some of your best drawings, one or two different ones for each editor, and Xerox them. Why Xerox them? The reason is that when you're submitting unsolicited material there is no guarantee it will go where it was intended to go. It's a well known fact that there's a monster living in the U.S. Postal system that eats fan art. Also, Xeroxing starts you on the road to a prudent habit; keeping a record of everything you produce—dated, of course. The record is for your edification,(hopefully you get better as you go along), and protection.
The drawings are in the mail with a note explaining how you'd love to see them used in the forthcoming issue of "The Weed Garden of Trekdom," and a return address, and return postage. Some time between ten days and ten months later you will hear how your illos were received. Don't lose hope before ten months; some editors only open their mail once a year, on the third Saturday in July, but do consider that editor a 'write off if you haven't heard anything by then. The responses that you do get to your initial feeler may range from: "If I see one more illo of Spook, I'll barf," to "It's the greatest thing since Connie Faddis, send the original immediately." It was with this second possibility in mind that you did not send copies of the same illo to six different people. The result would/could be embarrassing indeed. But while those two possibilities can occur, the answer you are most likely to receive is: "I like your style but I can't use another Spock—I have 36 in the bottom drawer of my dresser right now. Enclosed is a little poem entitled "The Loneliness of a Mother Horta." Do an illo for it.
Well anyway, you have an illo assignment. "But," you say to yourself, "a mother Horta isn't exactly what I had in mind." However, it is a start, and you set off to produce one exceptionally fine mother Horta. And you run into your first setback. While you have six or eight really nifty photos of Spock around the house, you don't have one of the Horta. You've also run into the first requirement for an artist—reference material. The nonartist will say; "Oh, a Horta is easy. It looks like a rock, sort'a."
But you don't want your illo to look "sort1a" like a Horta, you want it to look exactly like a Horta. So you start doing research. There are all sorts of printed matter with shots from Star Trek, and then there are slides. Since you've decided to become a contributing artist, you quickly conclude that a selection of slides from Lincoln Enterprises or another source is a wise investment, but reference can't stop there. Even the slides are limited in what they can show. Therefore you discover (a) Playboy and Playgirl for what they can show, (b) The Classic Nude by Hester for even more enlightenment, (c) the local library for background, and Cd) newspaper clippings. Needless to say, this wasn't all for the Horta, but it will come in handy someday.
Oh! At this point you were thinking that you could get by with just a pencil drawing—after all, you've got a touch like Da Vinci. BUT, you aren't Alice Jones, or at least you don't have her reputation for fine workmanship. Pencil reproduction requires the use of a special printing process called half tone. Half tone requires the expenditure of more money than straight black and white repro. Host editors don't have more money. Ergo, most editors will not accept pencil drawings.
That means that at first you are more or less stuck with doing everything in ink —black, always, on white—not ecru, bone, ivory, beige, or yellow, but white paper. Though if your editor is a generous soul you may get away with white ink on black paper, a la Leslie Fish. How you get the ink on the paper is determined partly by your stylo, what you feel comfortable with, and partly by what you want to do. Felt tip pens give steady, predictable lines and points. I prefer a Pilot Razor or Fine for fine lines, and a Stanford Expresso or Expresso Bold for heavier lines. Both these brands deliver a nice dense line which is easily reproduced. Crow quill or steel tip pens produce more expressive lines and can be used with India ink which also reproduces will. But for the ultimate in extremely fine work, such as seen in illos by Heather Firth, nothing matches a technical pen, i. e. Kohinoor, Mars-Stedtler, or Faber-Castell. When I say that nothing touches these pens for sharpness of line, it's true. It's equally true that they are expensive, $7-$10 per pen, or $3-$5 per replacement point; tempermental, and generally a pain in the nibs to work with. They also require special ink as the varnish in India ink is sure to rot their innards, and gum up their points. And if you live in an area that has hot and cold running rust coming from the tap, as I do, you would be wise to wash, technical pens only in distilled water.
Well, you finished your three assignments, they are signed, you've put your name and address on an inconspicuous place on the back, you've even Xeroxed them. Now you are ready to mail them out. Remember the postal monster? Nothing you do will ensure that the illos you put into the mail will be in the same condition as the illos your editor takes out of the mail, but there are a few precautions you can take. Back flat pieces with corrugated cardboard. If you must send rolled artwork, protect it by purchasing a sturdy mailing tube; they will practically withstand the weight of a mail truck, and they may have to. A paper towel roll will not. Send things first class, or 4th class special handling, which can be insured. Be sneaky, write PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIALS on the package. In certain cases it might also be nice to enclose return postage. And that's it! You are now a bona fide fan artist. Just sit back and wait for the accolades to roll in. What's that you say? No accolades. You didn't really think it was going to be that easy, did you? But you did get another request for illos. This time it's a Jean Lorrah story with three—count them—three, make-out scenes. Back to the reference material.

An Added Response by the Editor of the Zine

Johanna Cantor added this comment at the end of the essay:

I'd like to add a point which Bev was probably too polite to include. Don't assume that the editor knows anything about art. I once printed a lovely picture of Bev's sideways; that she's still speaking to me can only be the sign of a generous and forgiving nature. I'd strongly suggest writing, lightly on the back of the illo, "top," "put on upper right if possible"... that sort of thing. Maybe I shouldn't judge others by myself. But could it hurt? I think it's generally assumed in fandom by now that the art belongs to the artist, and is to be returned after the zine is printed. It can't hurt to be sure of that in advance, however. -- Johanna

Reactions and Reviews

Recently I bought some Star Trek zines online and while reading through, discovered this article. This zine is Archives I, published in 1979, and the article is So You Want To Be a Fan Artists! Beverly C. Zuk... She passed away in 2009.

In 1979, there was no computer software available for fanartists to draw in, no Wacom tablets or Photoshop. There was no internet to google references, no netflix/streaming to pull up specific scenes of past episodes. No internet and online fan communities to share your art on. Fans had to send their artwork to zines like these and hope to get published in order to share their work. The same goes for fanfic.

This book was published 4 years before I was born. By the time I was old enough to be a fan of things, there were livejournal communities and mailing lists. And now if I want stories or fanart, or to share my own fanwork, it’s clicks away. If I need a reference for any specific thing, I’ll have thousands in the time it takes me to type what I need.

I’ll never forget how lucky we are.

(PS I love the notes about Kirk being harder to draw than Spock, because the struggle is real and older than I am.) [1]


  1. chuuface.tumblr, October 21, 2015