I think fandom is what made me want to draw in the first place, and what motivated me to become better.
You watch a show, you read a comic, but you have your own imagination.. You want to be part of the story, you want your favorite character to have the spotlight, anything you want to happen but since it's not your story, it won't be official.
But if it's all just art, it's just lines on paper, you realize you can make your own lines and make the images a reality.
I used to be obsessed with being "on-model" or matching the source material exactly - if it looks just like the official art, it's somehow more official.. or more real somehow. Like seizing control of reality and rewriting it in your own image.
And there's value in copying your art idols, in the sense that you're really examining how they draw, what they choose to emphasize, how they structure their art, the little things you don't really get at a first glance. Comparing your art and theirs side to side, or laying them over each other. In a bigger sense that's how you learn to draw in the first place, learning by observation. And after some practice, if you wanna see your favorite character some more, if there's a scene you wanna make happen.. you can just draw it yourself. And that's pretty neat. That's a pretty cool thing to be able to do.
But.. there's always something missing when you're obsessed with matching your source, when what's canon and strictly to the model sheet is what's ideal. Fanart, and fan fiction, is never true to the source material. It can get close, it can approximate the source. But it's absolutely correct that most fan art and fan fiction flagrantly disregards canon.
Here's the thing: all fan art is self-portrait.
I've felt this strange dissonance when I've become attached to a favorite character, and then go back re-watch or re-read them and realize they're completely different than I'd imagined them to be. Because what I'm watching is someone else's story. What I draw and what I imagine is my story. It's about myself.
And I could do the same thing like with the art- I could study the story harder, examine the characters and how they're written.. and for what? To become a ghost writer for the author? I don't want to write their story. I take what I identify with, what resonates with me, and make it my own.
So I wondered - why is being slavishly true to being on-model so important? It's a form of realism - it's hard to draw exactly what you see, so being able to draw something that looks how it's supposed to look is an achievement. It's also a limited way of looking at art - realism is success, anything else is failure. But remember how we achieved that realism - by copying the original. If we stop there, what have we done? Just made a copy, that's it. It's not about being realistic, or true to a source or style - it's studying it and expanding your observations in order to express yourself in more ways than you could before.
Drawing from life frustrated the hell out of me - the world is so detailed, and that amount of variation and detail is beautiful, and impossibly complex - it's just overwhelming. There's no way I can copy that, not without taking some liberties and simplifying what I see, but what's the point of that when it's the sheer complexity and depth of detail that I find so beautiful in the first place? It's already perfect. What can I do that a photo can't do?
Again, it's not a matter of art as success or failure. I don't need to copy the world, it exists already. It's about what the world can teach me about expressing myself. I've got ideas, passions, emotions, things that are important to me, things I personally find beautiful - I want to express them. I study the world and I study other artists and they show me how to see myself.