Artist Interview: Surfi (Tumblr artist)

Tumblr artist Surfi’s recent pokemon fan series has started catchin’ all the attention. We talked with her regarding creating fan art and having her work online in our latest artist interview.

BOM: When did you start drawing?

Surfi: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember – since I was a child. I was always the artistic one with friends. I started drawing digitally in 2007.


BOM: What’s been the biggest challenge in drawing fan art?

Surfi: One of the biggest challenges with already having base material is that you mostly need to put your own spin on the existing characters and stories. You borrow something from the creator and make a claim on an aspect of it. Fanart, and fan work in general, is “looked down” upon by some people because they see it having no opportunity for original thought and creativity – I disagree, there’s plenty of inspiration to be had from existing work.

BOM: You’ve drawn a lot of Alternative Universe pieces, what inspires a comic idea?

Surfi: I usually get these ideas from everyday encounters, from a grocery store to bantering with people. I’ll see a situation and go, oh, this can be interesting, then I think of a way to relate it to whatever characters I have in mind that fit it the most. I daydream a lot. Some universes and situations just inspire more ideas, I’ll think of a script for one strip then more just form naturally from there.


BOM: What are some of the benefits to putting your work online?

Surfi: Exposure, mainly. More people find you through online portfolios. Information about something you’ve done spreads way faster through the internet, and there’s more value in that sort of communication because it is very easy for someone to click on a link to your other work.


BOM: What are some of the disadvantages?

Surfi: There’s this mindset among some people that once you put your work online, you’re free game for your stuff being stolen, or shared indiscriminately with no regards for your hard work. I’ve had my work shared without credit, or even had people actually put their own watermarks on it. “It’s on the internet,” they say. “This is your own fault for sharing it here. You can’t do anything about it, it’s the nature of the medium.”

This is wrong. I think this kind of opinion comes from the thought that intangible, digital work are somehow “less” than actual physical objects, that a digital artist does not deserve the same respect that you would afford someone who produces things you can see off-screen.

I’ve done both traditional and digital art. Both have their own difficulties in their own right, both require effort, and neither is less than the other.


BOM: Has your creative process changed since you started putting work online?

Surfi: Yeah it has! Putting my work online has gotten me more feedback – I’ve never taken art classes – and it’s helped me improved a lot. Being a part of fandom, too, and sharing my work with other fans, have kickstarted inspiration more than once. That’s what’s fun about being a fanartist, I guess.


BOM: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Surfi: Take criticism earlier and better. I used to hate criticism, before I finally learned that, in this field, you need to have thick skin if you want to get better. There’s criticism for the sake of criticism, and constructive criticism as well, and eventually you’ll learn the difference. Art is a permanent learning process – there will always be someone better than you, so don’t get complacent.


Check out Surfi other work on her Tumblr.


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