March 26, 2021

Disabled And Here illustrator feature: Dana

Hi! How would you like to introduce yourself? I’m Dana Chan (aka DANCHAN), a queer, nonbinary, & disabled East Asian designer and illustrator. My work relies heavily on sarcasm and flippancy to casually approach difficult topics such as disability, mental health, and capitalism.

Dana posing

Dana smiles with closed eyes while folding their hands under their chin.
They have light brown hair, glasses, and a black T-shirt.

How did you get into art and illustration? How would you describe your style? I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, but I began taking illustration more seriously in 2018 when I purchased my iPad, delved deeper into digital art, and started posting more on social media.

I would describe my style as cute aesthetic-wise and chaotic content-wise. I love representing serious topics in the most visually ridiculous way possible (with it still being aesthetically pleasing, of course).

How do your lived experiences impact your art in general? Not to be “oppressed” and “edgy,” but as a designer who lives within the complexity of multiple marginalized identities, it’s frustrating to exist in the larger, extremely neoliberal design community.

Examples of what I mean are: white-washed MLK quotes on MLK day; illustrations of QPOC made by heterosexual/white/male illustrators, and design/artist orgs that pride themselves on being feminist, but also do things like profit off of merch made by female sweatshop workers in non-English speaking countries. It’s so frustrating that this is the content that I see when I seek out aesthetic inspiration. And because of that, I deliberately try to create work that really speaks to what I believe and who I am as a person.

Animal Crossing illustration

Fanart of Isabelle (the Animal Crossing dog) holding a rainbow flag in one hand and a sign with a house and rainbow in the other. Her eyes are balls of fire. Text around her reads, "do gay be crime."

Of course, as much as my art is a place to process trauma and subvert marginalization, it’s also a place to avoid all of that and just draw meaningless shit to make me happy. Sometimes it’s not about making a statement — sometimes it’s just about coping.

For a bit of a change, let’s imagine disability dreams and futures. What might your ideal life or world be like? In an ideal world, mutual aid would be the norm, not the exception. It would be easy to trust people I’ve never met, without fear of exploitation or harm. Everybody in my community and everybody I love would have all the resources they need to not only survive, but live a sustainable, healthy, and happy life.

For me specifically, it would mean that I have ready access to any healthcare or medication I need. I would be able to live in a space of my own while simultaneously being surrounded by a community who cares for me. I wouldn’t always be struggling to balance my health and my work and I would have energy to freely give my love to multiple people at the same time.

Lettering art

Hand lettered art that says, "Laughter is a form of Sustainability." The style is sans serif with a bit of flourish, all caps. Background is black with letters in very light pink with red shadows and a white highlight across parts of the words. There are sparkles filling in the empty spaces.

For a more fantastical route, I would love to be able to teleport. It’s so fun exploring new places but I absolutely HATE having to actually get there. It’d be so fun to go to Japan for a couple of hours to play around at their Nintendo theme park, without having to endure the 12+ hour plane ride to and back. Also would love it if humanity came up with a way to photosynthesize so that I wouldn’t have to eat or think about food anymore.

What about dream projects? I have so many things that I want to do! I would love to paint a mural, illustrate a book cover, design an album cover, or create a pop up exhibit/shop. A recent dream of mine (that isn’t necessarily a “project”) is to become a streamer and create a more interactive online community for myself.

Aww, that’d be lovely. As of this interview, we’re almost a year into the pandemic, which has obviously been hard for a lot of us. Are there things that have been pleasantly distracting or even joyful or fun during this time? So many new interests during this time (most, if not all, guilty pleasures).

Animal Crossing avatar

Illustration of an Animal Crossing girl wearing a big black graphic tee, matching bright pink cowboy boots & hat, and red cateye sunnies. behind her is a simple background of the wild west, using the same colors as her outfit. next to her are the words "YEE HAW" and a couple of sparklies.

Official closer: what are the best ways to support you and your work going forward? Follow me on Instagram or Dribbble @canofdanchan!

As an upper middle class person, I also try to engage in as much financial mutual aid as I can, and would recommend checking out @openyrpurse, @newwxrldnetwork @blackwomxnexhale on Instagram to donate if you can, too!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo & illustrations from Dana Chan
Interview by Elea Chang

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