I was on a panel about this last week at Rose City. It’s a big topic, and I think a really interesting one that deserves discussion. I’ve got my own rules about what I think is “ok” and not. I would definitely stop if a creator or legal representative wanted me to. I don’t mass-produce anything. I don’t sell fan art for properties I perceive as independent / small-budget. My fan art is always a departure from any official art that already exists. I try to make something new, that I’ve really transformed to fit my style, just based on a character/property that already exists. When I draw fan art, it’s always for something I genuinely like that I want to draw and share with other fans.
But in general, I don’t think that fan art is evil. I think it can exist in perfect harmony with the property, and that it DOESN’T take money away from the official property merchandise if fan artists offer something new that wasn’t offered before. I think that people who buy fan art tend to also give money to the official property, because they love it. I think fan art builds community and fuels fan love around the original property, and that, in many ways, it’s actually very beneficial for the copyright owners to allow it.
I’ve had only good interactions with copyright holders finding my fan art. I know that might not always be the case, but so far I’ve had really positive experiences making and, sometimes, selling fan art.