Bucheon, South Korea – Lee Chan-jae is a 75-year-old grandfather living in South Korea.
However, he is no ordinary 75-year-old. Lee has 300,000 followers on Instagram, his global rise to fame being his drawings for his three grandchildren.
Lee never learned how to draw. He did not know how to use social media. But the “sensation” started when his daughter’s family moved to South Korea from Brazil, where his family had lived since 1981.
In Brazil, Lee did the school pick-and-drop service for his grandkids for almost six years after his retirement.
But his daughter and grandkids’ sudden departure to South Korea left him lonely with nothing much else to do. He talked about his feelings to his son, Ji, when he visited him in New York.
As a way to connect with his grandkids, Ji told Lee to draw a picture for his three grandkids daily and post it on Instagram.
But for Lee, this was not an easy task on multiple fronts.
He attended an art club in high school but did not learn how to draw professionally. For him, it was a hobby.
Social media was another challenge.
“I had only used a mobile phone to make calls. I was at a bit of a loss and put off by social media, including Facebook and Instagram,” Lee told Al Jazeera.
Lee’s son taught him how to use social media before he was able to draw, photograph what he had drawn and post it on Instagram.
The more pictures he draws, the harder it becomes to come up with an idea what to draw, said Lee.
He now lives in South Korea with his wife. However, this “project” is keeping his family members closer.
With an increasing number of followers and more attention on him and his work, the Instagram postings are now delegated within the family.
Once Lee draws a picture, his wife writes a story which then gets translated into English by his son and into Portuguese by his daughter so that a lot of people around the world can read it.
“My wife, son, daughter, and I communicate every day. It has had a positive influence on our family bonding,” said Lee.
The photos are now more than just a form of communication with his family. A lot of his followers tell him via comments on how Lee’s drawings felt very warm and made them tearful. The followers also said they wanted to suggest something similar to the parents.
“It occurred to me that I should also start drawing pictures that could encourage such people,” said Lee.
“I never anticipated I would have so many followers. Now I’m under even more pressure to draw good pictures.”