VI. Artists and Writers
Given the importance attributed to artwork within the fandom and the popularity of art/artist websites within the community,🐾 we wanted to know what percentage of furries considered themselves to be artists and writers. We asked participants to indicate, on a 7-point scale, the extent to which they considered themselves to be an artist and a writer (1 = absolutely not to 7 = very much.)🐾 The table below shows that about 35% of the fandom does not identify as either artists or writers, while another 25% or so strongly identify as artists or writers.
To test whether these rates of content creators in the furry fandom differed from other fandoms, we asked the same questions to convention-going (A-Kon) and online anime fans, as well as fantasy sport fans (see figures below). Given that the furry fandom is a predominantly visual art fandom, and given that the fandom’s content centers on independent artists (as opposed to large studios), it is unsurprising that furries were the group most strongly self-identifying as artists, a distinction that seems to be unique to visual art, as furries were not the fandom most likely to self-identify as writers🐾
On average, furry artists are older than non-artist furries (see figure below).🐾 However, the shape of the age distribution is comparable to that of the broader furry fandom, with the exception of 18-22 year old furries, which may be a product of sampling bias: artists recruited in these samples were those who had tables in their respective conventions’ dealer areas, which means they were established enough in their careers to justify the cost of their table. As such, our sample likely draws upon artists who have been in the fandom for a while or who have spent many years honing their craft. Going forward, we plan to study artists in the fandom with online studies, to see whether this tendency for artists to be older than the general furry population holds outside of a convention setting, with a broader, more representative sample of artists.
The table below🐾 shows that artists in the fandom have a very different sex/gender composition than the rest of the fandom—they are far more likely to identify as female than male (almost reversing the proportions entirely), and, at least among artists who self-identified a furries, were twice as likely to self-identify as genderqueer or non-binary. We are, as of yet, unsure why artists show such a dramatically different sex/gender composition compared to the rest of the furry fandom, and future research will be investigating this issue. However, data suggest the possibility that the furry fandom as a whole, being predominantly male, may seem like a “boys club” to some women,🐾 which may discourage women from joining the fandom or preferentially select for people whose gender identity is more in-line with traditionally masculine traits. For females who have an “in,” however (e.g., “I’m an artist, I belong here”), it may be easier to fit into the fandom. It remains for future research to these hypotheses.
Sex and Gender among Artists and Non-Artists in the Fandom
|Category||Artist (Furry)||Artist (Non- Furry)||Furries|
Female-identifying artists are more likely to have been artists before they were furries (60%); in contrast, male-identifying artists are far less likely to have been artists before they were furries (20%). This suggests that female artists are more likely to be artists who were inspired by, or found their way into the furry fandom, whereas male artists are more likely to be furries who were inspired to become artists, though future research is needed to test these hypotheses. It’s worth noting, however, that among artists who self-identify as furries, they do not differ significantly from furries with regard to how strongly they identify with the fandom or with their personal furry fanship (see section 9.4, Fandom vs. Fanship, for more on the fandom/fanship distinction.)🐾
Given that many negative stereotypes about the furry fandom suggest that it is a fetish or is predominantly associated with sexuality, we asked our sample of furry artists to estimate the percent of the content they produced which was erotic in nature. On average, they estimated that 25% of the work they produced was “adult,”🐾 and 17.6% said that more than half the content they produced was explicit, although 32.4% indicated that they produced artwork with no erotic content at all.🐾 75% of artists stated that they had been asked at least once to create something that they were not personally comfortable with and 22% said that they actually went through with it and produced the content despite their reservations. 67% of stated that they try to avoid such issues by posting a list of content that they would not produce (e.g., particular fetishes or themes.)🐾
The furry fandom is unique from other fandoms for many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons, however, is its largely independent and decentralized nature: in comparison to other fandoms (e.g., science fiction, fantasy) where content is driven primarily by a few large, professional sources (e.g., movie studios, publishing companies), the furry fandom’s content is almost entirely user-generated. Nearly every furry has a unique fursona, many furries commission art from, or are themselves, independent artists, and while some shows/large studios are the source of some of the fandom’s content (e.g., Pokémon, My Little Pony, Disney movies), they do not comprise the bulk of the fandom’s content.
As a result of this fan-driven, independent-artist culture, we wondered whether this would have an effect on the relationship between content creators (artists) and furries. For example, in the sci-fi fandom, it is much more difficult for fans to insist what shows like Dr. Who, Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica should do, given how little influence they have over the professional studios that produce the shows. In contrast, for small, independent artists, who are far more readily approachable at conventions or accessible online, it may be the case that furries feel a greater sense of entitlement toward them. In fact, one survey of artists revealed that 95% agreed that furries were moderately to excessively demanding of them.🐾 To more systematically test furry entitlement, we used an entitlement questionnaire, which assesses the extent to which members of a fandom agree that they are entitled to special treatment from artists (e.g., they should be met in person, they should take my suggestions, they should always reply to my e- mails). The extent to which participants agreed with each item was indicated using a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree).
When compared to members of other fandoms (convention-going anime fans, online anime fans, fantasy sport fans), furries scored the highest with regard to entitlement (see figure below.)🐾 These data support the hypothesis that the relatively smaller size of the furry fandom and the approachability of content creators may lead to a greater sense of entitlement among fans, though this mechanism needs to be specifically tested in future studies.
The table below includes a summary of the seven questions on the fan entitlement questionnaire. The questions were given to two separate samples of participants. In 2014, the questions were asked of furries attending Anthrocon (the “Furries think” category). In 2015, artists at Anthrocon were asked how they personally felt about each of the issues (“Artists believe”), and were also asked to estimate how the average furry scored on each item (“Furry Estimate”). The right-most column indicates what percent of furries scored as high as artists predicted; if artists were perfectly accurate, this would be 50% (indicating that half of furries were as bad as the artist’s estimate of the average furry).
|Item||Artists Believe||Furry Estimate||Furries Think||
% “As Bad”
|Meet fans in person||5.12||5.40||3.69||14.7|
|Go above and beyond||3.60||5.50||3.03||8.1|
|Email me back||5.77||6.63||4.45||15.7|
|Special treatment for devotion||3.41||5.27||2.22||7.8|
|Listen to fans||4.30||5.83||3.84||14.2|
|Let them know work is sub-par||3.97||4.42||3.43||47.7|
|Deserve special treatment||2.36||5.06||1.75||4.7|
Given that artists deal with what’s perceived to be significant fan entitlement,🐾 we decided to further assess some of the major issues faced by artists who regularly interact with fans—typically through commissioned work. The idea was to assess some of the problems that commonly arise in the course of commissioned work and to raise awareness among other artists (and the fandom as a whole) of some of the broader issues faced by artists.
Across multiple focus groups, artists summarized some of the biggest concerns they had:🐾
— Worry about a “mob mentality” on websites that aim to publicly shame or discredit artists. Many artists expressed fear that one bad review on these sites could destroy their reputation in the fandom.
— Felt pressure to draw copyrighted characters (legal concerns about copyright infringement) and pressure from commissioners to draw things on the artist’s “will not draw” list.
— Worry that having a more cartoonish style, or using a digital medium, will result in their work being valued less or requiring less skill than more realistic art or using traditional media.
— Taking on too much work, being unable to organize their workload, and ultimately being unable to deliver a quality, finished product on time.
— Commissioners underestimating the time needed to complete a commission or having unrealistic expectations of the final product.
— Commissioners undervaluing a piece of work, arguing about prices, or expecting free art
— Lack of clarity about what commissioners want, including a lack of reference pictures or a lack of clear ideas/expectations, leading to multiple revisions and commissioner disappointment.
— Failure of commissioner to read the artist’s terms of service, or lack of clarity/visibility of terms of service, and requesting content the artist is unwilling or unable to produce.
— Failure of commissioners to pay for work or difficulty communication with commissioner (e.g., no response via e-mail).
— Commissioners behaving in an unprofessional manner.
In a final set of questions, artists were asked to indicate the extent to which they worried about specific issues. Artists worried most about being too busy to fulfill their obligations, followed closely by concerns about ensuring that they had enough work and concern about their reputation in the fandom.🐾