These fans are ardent followers of the artist's work on social media sites that thrive on image sharing.. like Facebook or Instagram. Of course artists enjoy the appreciation .. but where is the support?
Convention attendees may not all be collectors of original art, but when they balk at paying even modest prices for prints.... that's a clear sign of the disconnect. They claim to value art, but they bristle at the idea of paying money to the artists.
Every image that pops up on a Facebook feed or a "Google Image" search.. had an origin. Chances are it was the work of an artist... but it's rare for that creator to get credit.. much less compensation.
The "rules" of the internet favor companies... not individuals. Most artists are independent contractors and entrepreneurs ... but also woefully undertrained in those roles. Previous post on need for indie artists to calculate their day rate:
It's up to fans to start correcting the assumption that on-line art is free.... and artists to stop selling themselves short...
There are platforms like Patreon to help get this message across. https://www.patreon.com/
Artists need to promote themselves in ways that allow fans to contribute to their enjoyment of the artist's work.
Education is the key. Artists should use conventions, websites and social media to reinforce the impact of small donations. These have the potential to really add up as support for online art. Artists can't make expenses exhibiting at a con only by selling "smalls" with entry-level price points like $1 buttons and $5 prints... BUT ... if hundreds and thousands of fans are happy to "like" an artists page... what if they were also willing to put some investment in their interest? Modest donation/pledges of under $10 or $20 would be a mighty fine way to demonstrate the value fans hold for the art.. and their community effort to keep it available.
Meanwhile, I'm keeping an eye out for clever ways artists are posting art AND including a quick, easy way to donate or pledge for this work. Because it is work. A lot of work. And no one can afford to work for free.
Artist "Ryoko" of I Love Coffee includes a donation button with her blog posts:
http://en.ilovecoffee.jp/posts/view/186 Just click for a quick and easy link to PayPal! Brilliant!
More on online art theft and copyright issues for indie artists: http://stuartngbooks.blogspot.com/2016/09/combat-art-theft-case-studies-and.html
Artists need to make themselves a priority. They can't create if they are sick and broke.
Few artists can make their living entirely through their creative efforts. That means they are doing a job... and making art. Why make it harder for them???
If you love on-line art and artists.... support them. We're all in this together...