Fandom Fix is where we will be taking a deep-dive into the wildly colourful, intensely powerful, and incredibly passionate fan communities of K-Pop. In this series, we will take a look at how fandoms create, organise, and show their excitement and devotion for their idols.
In the first instalment of Fandom Fix, we sit down with Barcelona’s Laia, a fanartist who finds inspiration through the dynamic, highly visual creativity expressed by her favourite K-Pop groups.
In our interview, we discuss her inspirations, her love for the fanart community, and the importance of loving yourself.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m Laia, an illustrator and concept art student, based in Barcelona. I have been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil, but I had not taken it seriously until I was introduced to digital art back in 2016.
A year later, I finally decided to open my own art account on Instagram after seeing how huge the art community was on social media. That same year I was introduced to K-Pop and I fell in love with its visual appeal. It made a drastic change in my art. Encouraged by the amazing artists from the K-Pop fanart community, I began posting my own BTS drawings, and that decision changed my life! I met amazing, sweet, supportive, and inspiring people who became some of my closest friends and biggest supporters in my art career.
I’m now working on illustrating two children books, while I keep making fanart and selling it on my own online shop!
How would you describe your style? How has this evolved through the years?
Before changing my main media to digital art, I used to draw realism style type of drawings, mainly portraits and landscapes. But I never attended any type of art classes so I just experimented with the knowledge I had learnt from YouTube videos or books.
In 2016, when I fell in love with a very popular illustrator’s style also from Barcelona, I realised I wanted my art style to take a whole different path; more manga-influenced rather than classical realism. So I equipped myself with a few ”how to draw manga” books and lots of motivation to learn from it!
After learning the basics, I started to change some of the classical facial features and proportions to create a new style I could feel identified in. So, I would say it is some kind of cartoonish, manga, weird Laia style!
What do you try to communicate through your art?
When I started drawing there wasn’t much I wanted to communicate, I was just a 15-year-old teenager trying to find herself, so drawing for me was a way to escape my daily life worries and just enjoy something I was supposedly good at.
My high school days were good ones, full of new friends and new experiences. On a personal level, they were also hard days. My self-confidence, mainly about my body, wasn’t the best and I struggled a lot with shyness. But drawing made me feel like I was finally good at something and it was all because of my hard work, so I was really proud of that.
My mindset changed in 2017. I finally realised that I should start appreciating myself, and the Love Yourself series helped me a lot.
That change in my way of seeing myself and the world in general was also pictured in my art. I wanted to share love and positivity through my pieces so I started using bright colours and happy scenes. My main goal as an artist is to make people smile when they see one of my drawings, and hopefully make them a little happier!
Who are your major inspirations?
My main inspiration has to be my family; they’ve always helped and supported me, especially when I said I wanted to join art school and everyone else thought I was crazy.
The second one, BTS. It might sound cheesy but they truly have helped me a lot. Not only because of the Love Yourself era, but also because of their passion and hard work. Their lyrics and words have taught me that hard work can make even the highest goals and dreams come true. So, I try to pour all my dedication and love into each piece, just like they do with their music; I always aim high so in the future I don’t feel regretful for not trying enough now. It’s truly incredible how music can have that much power!
What else inspires you?
Everything! Architecture, nature, experiences, food, fashion, song lyrics, weather… I try to find joy in every little thing and try to create something beautiful with it.
Sometimes I will be having a short walk around my city and see a cute cafe or street, and a composition for a piece will pop into my head. It used to happen a lot in my art history classes; I sometimes like to take a look back at the past and take some inspiration from old styles like Victorian era fashion or rococo paintings, which use elements that you can often see in my art.
Talk us through your creative process – what does this look like?
A good idea is the base of everything! Sometimes I just take a central element which I want to be the focus of the piece and will build a whole composition around it. Other times the main idea is a scene or action, and from that I build the whole scenario.
I would say my creative process is quite messy, especially in the first steps of it. Ideas often come when I’m in the most uncomfortable places to sketch them, like in the shower, just before getting asleep, or in the car. So I try to retain them long enough for me to at least write them down. Once I even dreamt of a drawing and when I woke up I ran to take my phone so I could write a brief description of it – it turns out that it wasn’t even a good concept!
Once I know what I want to draw, I try to find as many reference pictures as I can, especially for the human figure and perspective! After sketching – sometimes more than once because I may not be happy enough with the dynamism or expressions – it’s the lineart’s turn which usually takes me a short time since it’s only a clearer version of the sketch. Even though it looks kinda clean, I try to keep the vibe from the original sketch since I love the expressivity and dynamism of doodles.
Colouring is always my favourite part. It is where I can go wild and use as much pink and glitter as I want! I love trying new brushes and features of the program I use.
All this process is made digitally using a drawing tablet connected to my computer. It’s much more effective than traditional techniques, especially for professional applications like merch or book illustrations!
What is your favourite thing about the fanart community?
My favorite thing about it is how easy it is to meet new people because of all the acceptance, positivity and support the community radiates. It is a part of fandom where you rarely find drama. We just enjoy supporting our favourite groups or musicians through art, which I find beautiful since it kinda feels like, inspired by music we are enhancing the original concept and turning it into something new which hopefully will inspire others in a never ending chain. I don’t even know if that makes any sense, but I really like how music can be turned into much more thanks to fanartists all around the world.
As artists, we know how difficult living from art can be and also just the struggles of everyday life, so being able to connect with people from all around the world who are in your same situation is amazing.
There’s so much I’ve learnt from other artists. Thanks to the encouraging words of some of my friends in the community I’ve had the confidence to try things like opening my own online shop or commissions, which has helped me grow as an artist.
Also, since we all love the same artists we can relax, stop drawing for a while, and just chat for a while about their music!
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
It definitely has been having the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book. It was actually offered to me because of a mermaid I had drawn inspired in a BTS music video. Once I was creating the character for the book series, my editor showed me that one particular drawing, telling me that she really liked it and wanted the protagonist of the story to look kinda similar to it. That meant a lot to me; I’ve often heard how including fanart in a portfolio or posting it too much on social media won’t get you a job. Instead, what I’ve learned by my experience is that actually, it can sometimes help!
As a kid, reading was one of my favorite things in the world, especially books with lots of illustrations. So when I grew up although I enjoyed imagining the story in my head I couldn’t help but miss illustrations. I wanted adult books but with drawings! So, what I did was read comic books, manga, and graphic novels!
Now, being able to hopefully make kids smile just as I did back then, it’s a huge heartwarming experience. Seeing people enjoy the drawings and taking pictures smiling with the book means the whole world to me!
That was in 2018. Fun fact, this was just before I saw BTS live for the first time. You can imagine how wild of a year that was!
At the moment, I’ve just finished a second book and I’m already working on a new series coming next year.
Is there anything that you are planning in the near future?
I’m about to start my concept art degree at University, here in Barcelona. I’m excited to finally being able to jump right into 3D modelling and giving my art a whole new dimension. I hope to learn lots of new things from this new chapter in my life, and grow as an artist!
As always, I’m going to balance work with some free time to draw fanart because it’s something I absolutely enjoy and won’t stop doing.
Where can people see your work?
Mainly social media! Instagram is where my focus is on, since I can keep my art organised in a clean way. I also post on Twitter, but my tweets are more of a mix between art, my personal life, and a stan account so I would recommend Instagram!
You can also visit my shop, where you can get various products that I have designed and ship myself!
Offline, you can find me in conventions and artist alleys in Barcelona where I’m starting to get stands in to sell my work. My plan is start attending these events at a more national level and who knows, maybe someday even in a international one!