Junior expands love for digital art

September 5, 2021 — by Lynn Dai
Photo by Shannon Wang
The front page of Draw For A Cause features the nonprofit’s mascot, Sumie.

Before the pandemic, junior Shannon Wang barely had the motivation to pursue her interest in animation and digital art, much less imagine that she would be teaching it to other people. 

Now, she has transformed her passion into Draw for a Cause, a nonprofit that fundraises for various causes through art commissions. The organization launched its website on Aug. 3.

While Wang has been drawing traditional and digital art for six years, she didn’t find the courage to reach out to others who shared her passion until the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“There are so many people who have different talents and different interests. It’s hard to find someone who has the same passion as you,” she said. “But because of COVID, I had the motivation to experiment with art online, learn to be more responsible and interact with more people.”

Wang founded Draw For A Cause after her sister, class of 2019 alumna Cheryl Wang, now a junior at Wellesley College, encouraged her to participate in more extracurriculars and develop leadership skills. She recalls her sister waking her up at 2 a.m. and reprimanding her to finish her artwork. 

Since then, Wang has developed her nonprofit to support causes that she cares about, such as Girls Who Code, the Animal Humane Society, The Trevor Project, Bread for the World and Black Lives Matter.

Draw For A Cause allows clients to commission artists over Discord after agreeing on a cause to support. The commissioner first pays Wang, who keeps the money until the artist finishes their artwork. After the artwork is finished, artists are paid 15% of the commission and the rest of the commision profit is donated. In case any issues arise, Wang keeps a record of receipts, which allows clients to be refunded. 

Wang said the most common pieces of art so far are original characters, or OCs, which are characters modeled after the commissioners themselves or a digital character they like. Although most of the pieces showcased on the website are digital anime, there have also been commissions for semi-realistic or realistic artworks.

One of the earliest difficulties Wang faced was spreading the word about her nonprofit. After she set up the website, Wang started reaching out to people she had met online through art and animation Discord servers to help advertise the nonprofit. Wang said she put a lot of trust in the people she’d developed close relationships with online, which was  vital to the progress of her organization. 

So far, Draw For A Cause has five co-founders who go by Sofa, Lyra, Beanie and Tsuri, along with Wang, whose alias is Alyelle on the website. Junior Cindy Chang joined as an artist, and senior Shani Chiu and juniors Panisa Kachinthorn and Minsui Tang have applied as artists. Because the website only recently launched, there are still over 25 open positions. 

Despite her busy schedule with in-person learning, Wang is thankful for her organizers, who help her manage the nonprofit and social media sites.

Additionally, Wang and the officers have organized a cause of the month to bring more awareness and support to current issues. This month, Draw For A Cause is donating 80% of its commissions to the Afghanistan Emergency Fund in light of the recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

“It’s very, very severe. A lot of people are getting hurt, people are getting taken away from their families,” Wang said. “I take that cause really seriously and I’m really hoping to raise money for the cause.”

Presently, two of the eight commissions for OCs have been completed so far, raising over $100 worth of charity funds. Wang is hoping to raise $1,000 within a year, a goal she deems attainable based on current trends. 

“We still have a lot to figure out,” Wang said. “You never know if the website may die down, but since we’re at a strong start, I’m hoping we can achieve that goal.”

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