Hypable spoke with showrunner Jeff Davis about what fan art means to him at the opening of an officially-sanctioned Teen Wolf fan art exhibition in New York City.
Teen Wolf fans lined up across a full city block on Thursday night for the chance to attend the grand opening of a very special fan art exhibition in New York City. MTV is celebrating the fandom — and the premiere of Teen Wolf season 5 — by hosting an art exhibition, showcasing works by fan artists across the globe. Prior to arriving at the event, we weren’t sure what to expect, but as soon as we entered the space we understood that this is no platitude — it’s a professional exhibition in an esteemed venue, where the art on display is considered utterly valid. Not only is the Teen Wolf fan art exhibition a great experience for fans, it’s a huge step forward for the recognition and respect of fan art in the public consciousness.
Six of the nine artists featured were in attendance — the three that weren’t are all internationally based — along with guests of honor Tyler Posey and Jeff Davis. MTV’s Vice President of Off-Air Creative Jim deBarros, who helmed this event, was also present, and was happy to explain some of the finer details of how the exhibition came to be. There was a long-term plan to involve fan art in the promotion for Teen Wolf season 5, and MTV began to reach out to artists they admired in the fandom, asking them to get involved. The selection process leaned towards those who were pursuing a professional career in art and also those who fans had responded positively to in the past, along with a focus on including artists who produced work in diverse styles and mediums.
At first, the intention was to used the finished pieces for key art — the images used in official advertising and promotion — but when other networks pursued similar ideas during 2015, MTV re-thought the project and searched for a more unique and distinctive way of using the art, something that would elevate the fans involved. They settled on the idea of an exhibition and enthusiastically joined forces with the Art Director’s Club, a prestigious organization which promotes the creative and artistic endeavors in the field of commercial design, to put on the show.
To create the works, the artists selected were all given the same brief and some advance information about season 5, including the main themes and the broad plotlines such as the Dread Doctors and Scott’s pack being torn apart by villains. The fans were also given specs for the size of their work, and the pieces were submitted digitally (hand-made pieces were scanned,) but aside from that, it was open season. “We tried to let them interpret the material as they would have anyway,” deBarros told us, referring to both the technical mediums and styles that the artists could use, and also the general experience of fan creation as a loving response to media, despite being compensated for their work as professional artists. “Even for what they were paid, you can see that there was real passion in the work, and they were really happy to be asked and to participate.”
Given the requirements requested by MTV, the 23 works in the show are all somewhat canon-compliant, focusing on the show’s current lead characters and containing thematic hints about what fans can expect to see in the upcoming season 5, which premieres on Monday 29. When asked about which pieces may contain the most spoilery insight, deBarros claims that as far as foreshadowing goes, that fans should look closely at the pencil drawing submitted by Alice Pain, featuring Scott, Stiles, and Lydia covered by a shattered sheet of glass, and the watercolor portrait by Carlos Rodriguez showing Scott with a hint of this season’s ominous black blood trickling down his neck.
Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey and executive producer Jeff Davis mingled with fans and posed for pictures in front of the artworks before addressing the crowd in a short Q and A session. They were sure to thank the fans for making the night possible — “I never once fathomed the fan attention, the loyalty and the respect and the genuine love,” Posey gushed when asked if he ever expected to be at an event such as this. He also reaffirmed the fact that if he could play another role on the show, it would be Derek, a character he believes has “such depth to him.” Davis chimed in to reveal that Posey would be taking on a role in the writer’s room this season, in order to further his new role as a Teen Wolf producer, but Posey played that down, claiming that at this point, he just wants to listen and learn.
Fans also asked if Scott loved Allison more than new girlfriend Kira — a moment which inspired some shouting — and whether Posey wanted Scott to have a beard like his own current scruff. “Absolutely not,” Davis cut in, while Posey mouthed “yes!” to the audience. We also learned about a dramatic moment in the show’s upcoming season 5. “We do terrible things to Tyler this season,” the showrunner teased, and Posey admitted that he actually fainted during a scene due to how crazy things were getting. No clues as to what the scene in question could possibly involve, but keep your fingers crossed for the blooper reel!
As the event wound down, we got the chance to speak with Jeff Davis one-on-one. Earlier in the night, he’d mentioned the fact that he grew up wanting to be a comic artist and although he switched to writing, he finds it incredibly gratifying to see the show inspire people to artwork, since creating art holds a special place in his heart.
You mentioned your initial desire to become a comic book artist — given that they’re both creating new versions of existing characters, what do you see as the difference between creating fan art and comic book art?
Probably that fan art comes out of a passion for the characters and comic book art is a job. They always say that once something becomes a job you lose a little bit of your passion for it, which I understand, but I don’t know if I’ve lost my passion for this show! I still seem to be excited by it! But fan art is amazing to me. I never really knew about fan art until Teen Wolf — I’d drawn what I would probably consider fan art myself, but that was of comic books back then. I’m amazed by how good people are.
We’ve seen your fan art gallery at the Teen Wolf production offices. Did the idea for this exhibition grow out of that, or were they unrelated?
I think they were separate. When we started in the office — that was all the post-production team. They had looked online and seen all of the artwork and were just extraordinarily amazed by it, and it’s great because the post-production team we have is very proud of the show. The screenings that I have at my house are usually for the post-production teams so that they can see their finished work and show it to each other. It’s nice to have a crew that’s so proud of their work. They saw that kind of pride in the show from outside sources, from people who weren’t even involved in the making of it, and they wanted to put it up. I love it, i think it’s a great idea.
Do you have any favorite pieces, either that you’ve seen online or things displayed here tonight?
I love when there’s a sense of humor to it. One of my favorites is the Darach book, it’s Derek’s novel of his experiences with the Darach, and it has his other published titles on the back cover — I think it’s hilarious. Swann [Smith] is really good. I love the Bestiary, we bring it back [in the show,] but there are a bunch of pieces online that I really like. One of them is Derek pummeled with arrows, that’s pretty amazing. But tonight, there’s one by Swann that’s incredible, which is the clock over [Scott’s] face, and there’s another one of the Dread Doctors, our new characters, that’s really cool, I want it for my office.
Are there any characters you want to see more fan art of, or new things coming up that you hope will inspire fans to create art?
I hope they like the new villains, I think they’re really cool looking. I love steampunk, I love that whole aesthetic. I love the design elements in it, I love the fact that people make their own masks. One of my favorite past villains was the Nogitsune, such a simple villain, steel fangs and bandages, I was really happy with the way that turned out. I’m really happy with many of them — the Oni, the Berserkers. Our teams do a really good job — they make memorable villains. You look at other shows and you try to think who are the villains, and the imagery isn’t quite as memorable.
The exhibition, held at the Art Director’s Club at 106 W 29th St, is open to the public on weekdays until July 2.
The exhibited works are by Carina Tous, Alice Pain, Jessica Short, Frida Svensson, Carlos Rodriguez, Kendra Wells, Swann Smith, Liz Swezey, and an artist who wishes to be known only as Indy. Photo credits by Leonie Bunch.