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Nan Lawson’s Fandom Art Portraits are a Tumblr Wet Dream

Tumblr and fandoms go together like Mulder and Scully, like a Doctor and his companion, like Suzy and Sam. The microblogging social network and the legions of nerds that populate its pages have found a happy marriage in their utilization of the site, and nowhere is that more evident than in the pages of search results for some of its most popular tags: Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Wes Anderson. With a quick click you are immediately transported to page after page of images, screen grabs, GIFs, and other ephemera that make up a person’s arsenal of adoration.

Fandom-centric art has blossomed into a vibrant part of the subculture’s makeup. Given the highly visual nature of the site, art and various imagery are especially clickable and shareable, allowing for many artists’ work to not only be discovered, but appreciated and ingested far beyond the limits of that webby world we’ve woven online… like Nan Lawson, illustrator and Tumblr darling. Lawson’s beautiful, delicate, and playful pop culture portraitures have gained her a heady fellowship on the site. So we chatted with the artist about what she loves, how fandom love has helped her own career, and being a visual voice of fan worship and creativity.

When it comes to expressing your love for something, artistic endeavors are often a logical form for that adulation to take place. In order to adequately encapsulate and represent one’s feelings on something, sometimes art is the only way to do that, via words, images, crafts, statues, and more. Art, if anything, is the expression of an emotional impact in consumable form that is — unlike, say, buying a generic t-shirt or framing a poster on your wall — wholly one’s own. And when you consider the emotional connection and impact the fandom-worshipped have over their cavalcade of obsessors, it’s no surprise that artistic expression of said love is a big part of it.

X-Files, portrait by Nan Lawson

Nowhere is this more evident than on Tumblr, the microblogging social network started by David Karp back in 2007. In recent years, Tumblr has become a hotbed for fandom obsession, with particular fondness surrounding Comic-Con-centric geekery. Lawson found the site to be hugely influential in her own career. “I started my Tumblr blog as a sort of sketchbook, a place I could post whatever silly drawing I did for myself that day,” she explained. “The reaction I got was so positive that I started making more fan art. Now, pop-culture inspired pieces are mostly what I’m known for.”

“I’ve actually gotten some really interesting gigs because fans of [it],” she explained. One of those was the inclusion of her fan art in a display at San Diego Comic-Con for the CBS series The Big Bang Theory. “A fan of mine actually works for Warner Bros., so he suggested having me in the exhibit. My art was displayed at the Warner Bros. booth at Comic-Con last year, and I was interviewed on camera. It was such a fun experience!”

But that’s not all. Perhaps Lawson’s most memorable experience actually involved her meeting — and having a surreal encounter with — those beautiful kooks behind The Cornetto Trilogy. When her work was featured in an official Edgar Wright exhibit at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, the artist had the opportunity to meet some of her idols, and what happened next was a moment worth fangirling over. “Edgar Wright is one of my favorite filmmakers, and he was at the show so, I got to meet him, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, who were also in attendance. Edgar and Simon both told me that they purchased prints of my art inspired by the Cornetto Trilogy. Edgar took it a step further and a couple of months later tweeted a photo to me of all my prints framed and hanging in his home. I still find it hard to wrap my brain around that.”

Breaking Bad, illustration by Nan Lawson

Perhaps unsurprisingly, her most popular portraits are of the many faces of that mad man with a blue box: “I get a lot of love from Doctor Who fans — mostly because I love it so much too, and keep making art based on it.” And when Lawson loves the subjects at hand, it shows, like her portraits of those kooky lovables crafted by director Anderson. “I love making pieces inspired by his many awesome and flawed characters,” she said.

Contingents of teens and adults alike have found their own affinities echoed back at them on the site, from GIFs to clips, fan fiction to critical analysis — anything and everything included in the fandom can find itself a home, a community, and an audience with the mere hash of a tag at the bottom of a post. One notable aspect of Lawson’s work is the emotional authenticity her work evokes — a unifying aspect most fandom obsessives are drawn to — likely thanks to her style. “I often draw characters with their eyes closed,” she said. “I’ve found it adds a sweet sadness to the tone of the piece and has become a signature of my style.”

Sherlock, portrait by Nan Lawson

It makes sense then, that Lawson would be drawn to crafting art about Doctor Who, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and the like. “My fan art pieces are generally inspired by what I’m watching or reading at the moment or all-time favorites, like most of Wes Anderson’s films, or the book Pride and Prejudice.” When you consider that the kind of TV series, films, and people who draw that kind of following so often meditate on — or at least acknowledge — that inherent bittersweetness of life, it’s plain to see that Lawson’s art and her subjects go together like fish fingers and custard.

What’s your favorite piece of Lawson’s art? Let us know in the comments below.

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