Freelance illustrator portrays pandemic memories in paintings

August 15, 2021 - 09:35

A series of paintings depicting the experience of a young freelance illustrator having the coronavirus vaccine has recently gone viral


Freelance illustrator Nguyễn Vũ Xuân Lan, creator of the COVID-19 Vaccination Diary, a series of paintings that has recently gone viral. Photos courtesy of the artist

By Lương Thu Hương

A series of paintings depicting the experience of a young freelance illustrator receiving the coronavirus vaccine has recently gone viral on Vietnamese social media.

Only one day after being posted on her Nguyễn Vũ Xuân Lan’s Facebook page, the series Nhật Ký Đi Tiêm (COVID-19 Vaccination Diary) received over 5,000 likes and nearly 1,000 shares.

It has also been shared on the Facebook of UNICEF Việt Nam where it garnered over 79,000 likes after just two days.

COVID-19 Vaccination Diary is effectively a short comic book including 18 paintings. Each sketch details the process of a girl, presumably the painter herself, as she goes through the various stages of the inoculation, from registering and being notified via text message of the time and place of injection, through to being screened and injected, and finally being consulted on how to rest and stay healthy at home after the jab.

The picture diary is a string of cute drawings accompanied by simple but humorous dialogue.

Nguyễn Vũ Xuân Lan came up with the idea of the COVID-19 Vaccination Diary after returning home from being vaccinated on July 30.

“Before that, I used to feel doubts about the vaccination due to much conflicting information related to it, about anaphylaxis or the huge crowds waiting for injections in the hospital,” Lan said.

“However, my experience was surprisingly smooth and pleasant. Feeling safe and happy back home, I wanted to share this first-hand experience so that everyone can better understand the vaccination process and be less bewildered. I also hope that it would partly encourage others to get the injections.”

The 32-year-old freelance illustrator said that she finished the picture diary within four days of getting the injection.

“I started to have a fever while drawing so I had to take a day off. When my fever came down and I regained my composure, I continued to draw,” she said.

COVID-19 Vaccination Diary aims to record a life memory of the painter, but on receiving a vast array of positive comments, she realised that it has done much more.

“My series of paintings has offered a more positive view of the vaccination and answered a few frequently asked questions, so I feel like I have been contributing a small part to the fight against the pandemic,” she said.

The cover of COVID-19 Vaccination Diary. Photo courtesy of the artist












The diary is not Lan’s first work related to the pandemic. Previously she created a series of paintings of small children going to quarantine during the pandemic, which attracted over 12,000 likes and hundreds of comments.



A picture within Lan's series of paintings about little children going to quarantine during the pandemic. 

On her Facebook page named X.Lan, the illustrator captioned the photo album: "Drawing some cute moments to relieve stress during the pandemic."

Lecturer turns illustrator

Lan currently works as a freelance illustrator. Her work revolves around drawing and illustrating brands, advertising articles, books, teaching drawing for adults and creating graphics.

However, she was not officially trained in the arts and is a graduate of the University of Languages and International Studies at Việt Nam National University where she worked as an English lecturer.

“In 2013, while still an English lecturer, I used to make random drawings or short comics during my free time and uploaded them to my Facebook. Some of them went viral and I started to be noticed, which made me happy to keep drawing for the next few years,” said Lan.

“In 2016, I realised I wanted to take drawing more seriously so I decided to take a year off from teaching. I didn't think I would make a living from drawing. It was just because I liked it enough to spend time being serious about it. I thought that it was just a year and if I didn’t try, I would regret it later. If it didn't work out, it would not be too late to resume teaching. However, I was so satisfied that I never went back to teaching."

Lan’s paintings mostly revolve around her personal life, depicting small but memorable moments that she encounters each day.

“I observe and take notes a lot so there is always an abundance of ideas in my mind waiting to be drawn,” she said.

On her personal page, Lan describes herself simply: “I'm not good with words, so I draw to tell my stories.”

Since embarking on her new path, Lan cannot remember how many art projects she has been involved in. Some highlights include drawing illustrations for a book, entitled 199 mấy Hồi Ấy Làm Gì (What Were You Doing in the 1990s), a series of pictures on the issue of gender violence for CARE Vietnam, and the cartoon Kindness is Contagious for UNICEF.

The contents of Lan’s paintings mostly revolve around her personal life, depicting small but memorable moments that she encounters every day.

One of her most unforgettable memories as a freelance illustrator was receiving a request to draw the steps for wearing personal protective equipment. The pictures were to be presented to medical workers at Bạch Mai Hospital, and the client seemed to be the owner of a printing shop for hospitals.

“I drew the pictures very quickly so that he could present them to the doctors in time. The drawing process helped me to understand how hard it was for the medical staff, as using a protective suit involves dozens of steps, each of which demands proper disinfection, Lan said.

“The complete suit is enough to keep them safe from the virus and consists of many layers, but the doctors have to suffer from great heat and exhaustion.

"Sadly, the pictures still have not been presented to the doctors because the client contracted the virus and been taken to hospital for treatment."

Lan revealed that she would continue to draw and share any interesting experiences she encounters during this unforgettable global health crisis.

“I hope everyone will find moral support and comfort during these difficult days,” she said. VNS