Minnie Phan is an illustrator and cartoonist based in the Bay Area. Her specialties include editorial and children’s book illustrations. Her work can be seen in zines, major company designs, and art exhibits across the Bay Area. She spent undergrad at California College of the Arts honing her illustration skills. This opened up many doors for her in illustration, with her first solo show taking place at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Phan says that Oakland has influenced her art immensely since it has allowed her to find safety and comfort in exploring all of her identities in her work. As a queer person and daughter of Vietnamese refugees she finds that these identities influence her illustrations.
Phan grew up all around the East Bay, moving to different areas within the East Bay. She was born in Stockton and would often visit Oakland (specifically Chinatown) with her parents as she was growing up. She moved to Oakland in 2010, ringing in the New Year with celebrating 10 years of being based in Oakland.
Phan focuses on illustration, animation, and comic art and design. Phan has a BFA from California College of the Arts. Prior to this she attended a Pre-College program at CCA, referred to it by her high school teacher Michael Doyle. Phan recalls Doyle being a huge supporter of her artwork and always reminding her of her potential. In her junior year of college Phan was awarded a scholarship, which she chose to use to study abroad in Vietnam. During her time there, she was able to work on her art and really think critically about what it meant to be a daughter of Vietnamese refugees and how that influenced her art.
Interestingly, growing up Phan was always moving and had to switch elementary schools 5 times. High school and college were influential times for her because she was able to see herself grow and evolve within more consistent environments. In 2017 Phan taught classes for the community in Richmond at the Richmond Arts Center.
In a recent interview with Phan she said that she feels her biggest “launch” moment was getting into the Pre-College program at CCA. It proved to her that she could do this for a living. Her first solo show at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center was another pivotal moment for her art. She was able to have this solo show through her involvement in the CCA community. Her solo show led her to become a freelance illustrator and designer. She has a wide range of clients: her primary clients include Google, Starbucks, NPR, Live Nation, Abrams Books, Oakland Magazine, and many others.
- California College of the Arts was founded in 1907. Originally the campus was only located in Oakland, but it now has two campuses with the other located in San Francisco. Phan primarily attended classes on the Oakland campus (5212 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618), and it became a haunt for her during her Pre-College courses. Phan’s connection to the campus has opened up many doors for her, specifically with her freelance art.
- Children’s Fairyland, located on the shores of Lake Merritt, is a kids amusement park that attracts locals and tourists alike. Phan has painted multiple murals and sculptures for the amusement park. She finds inspiration and motivation when giving back to the community, especially when it means giving back to youth. Along with her work with children at Fairyland she also teaches classes to youth at the Richmond Art Center.
- The Oakland Asian Cultural Center (388 Ninth Street, Suite 290, Oakland, California 94607) was founded in 1984. The community felt that there needed to be a strong artistic and cultural center in the center of Chinatown. Phan’s involvement with the cultural center strengthened the intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue that she navigates in her art.
~ by Michelle Rodriguez ~
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