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Bhavna Madan Mohan

Indian Queer Illustrator

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Bhavna Madan Mohan is a visual artist and illustrator from India who is currently based in Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast. She studied Digital Media at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore and interned as an illustrator/ designer at Notion Press in Chennai in 2019. 

She has been a freelance illustrator for three years, with notable clients including Blossom Publishers and Young Adult author Becky Albertalli. Bhavna has engaged in fandom since early 2015 when Tumblr and Google Plus were popular social media sites for young teens. She strongly admires and enjoys the entertainers and artists she has come across in life. She was a big fan of the boyband One Direction and of Disney Animation–– which is not to be confused with being in a fandom. Not every fanbase has a fandom, since a fandom is a group of fans who are much more involved in their favored subculture than others would be.

It was in 2015 when Bhavna stepped into the fandom world after reading Rick Riordan’s juvenile novel, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. She saw fan art from Viktoria Ridzel, known simply as Viria within the Percy Jackson fandom, and  fell in love with the concept of fan art. From her first introduction, Bhavna has jumped among different types of fandom universes. From literary fiction to the Japanese manga Naruto to the Netflix series Stranger Things, in each fandom, Bhavna has made a lot of friends who share her interest, establishing friendships that have transcended the fandoms they met through and evolved into long-term relationships. When the COVID–19 pandemic hit, everything in her life came to a halt: her final year of college, her senior thesis, and her social life. She couldn’t interact with people as much, but it was during that time that she started actively using her Instagram account. As Kidovna, she used to post fan art and interact with others who were also stuck in lockdown. These interactions were among the ways she was able to socialize at a time when socializing seemed impossible.

During the pandemic, Bhavna’s art became so popular that author Becky Albertalli approached her and asked for her assistance in creating concept art for her new book Love Creekwood. Becky Albertalli is the author of the New York Times best-selling YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. This YA novel centers on Simon Spier, a 16-year-old not-so-openly gay boy who struggles with wanting to be true to himself but fears what the world would do if they knew he was gay.

As a queer woman herself, Bhavan feels a deep connection to characters such as Simon and she uses her platform to give these queer couples room to love each other through her illustrations. In fact, she has two original characters with backstories uniquely their own that she has been developing for the past few years: Anjana and Kalpana not only represent Bhavan as a dark-skinned queer Indian woman herself but also challenge Indian beauty standards. Companies like Fair and Lovely, a skin-lightening cosmetic product, target Indians who feel inferior because of their dark skin color. Enraged by their marketing ads, Bhavan created Anjana and Kalpana to show her audience members they are beautiful despite what popular standards claim. Currently, she says she is obsessed with drawing Will Byers from the Stranger Things Netflix series. “He’s queer. He’s an artist. It makes sense,” she said.

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“It’s always great to unwind sometimes and go into this other world. And these friends interact with me for the sole purpose of discussing these fictional worlds. I don’t have to discuss my real-life issues. Only talk about the things that bring me joy and things I know will also bring them joy. Just people interacting about things they enjoy"
–Bhavna Mohan


The Fan Art

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