What's Astro doing? He's touching grandpa's nose and saying “nose, nose, nose!”
Affectionately described by his son Ji Lee as a “grumpy old man,” 75-year-old Korean grandfather Chan Jae Lee may be the last person you would expect to find on Instagram. That all changed last year.
An out-of-practice amateur artist living in Brazil, Chan used to spend his time with his daughter and her two sons, Arthur and Allan. He happily acted as chauffeur for his young grandsons, enjoying his daily job of driving them to school. When their mother decided to relocate to Korea, however, Chan was left with ample time on his hands, with binge-watching Korean television as his only hobby. Worried about his restless father, Ji Lee consulted his mother, and they came up with a project for Chan: he could post his art on Instagram.
With no interest in social media or even the Internet, Chan was unsurprisingly unreceptive to the idea. However, during a trip to New York to visit Ji Lee and his newborn son, Astro, something changed Chan's mind. Having fallen in love with his new grandson, Chan wondered aloud what Astro would be when he grew up. When Ji Lee asked him what prompted such a question, Chan poignantly answered: “Because I won’t be around anymore.” While this existential realization upset Ji Lee, it also inspired a new and improved plan: Chan's Instagram sketches could actually be virtual gifts for his grandchildren. Unlike the original idea, Chan loved this proposition. He immediately began sketching again, and has completed a drawing a day ever since.
Skillfully rendered in a range of styles and depicting subject matter that spans animals, travel, still life scenes, and his beloved family members, each picture is posted on Chan's Instagram account, Drawings For My Grandchildren. While his art is undoubtedly delightful, the captions (or “stories”) are equally charming. Short, sweet, and written by Grandma, each block of text is directed toward the couple's grandchildren and complements the scene at hand.
They range from straightforward descriptions (“Astro's hands”), grandfather-to-grandson life lessons (“Take a look at people who are carrying heavy loads. Take a look at people who have hard lives. Let's be empathetic and let's try to help them”), and poignantly poetic reflections (“Your grandpa never received a Christmas gift growing up. That's because we were very poor during the Korean War, and also because I didn't even know Santa Claus even existed. Still today I'd like to hang big socks like you do”).
In addition to showcasing Chan's undeniable talent, Drawings For My Grandchildren has also brought the family together, and has made Chan finally realize and reach his full potential. “I’m a 75-year-old retired grandpa who doesn’t know anything about technology,” Chan told Instagram Blog. “I was able to start Instagram with the help from my family. It brings lots of joy and connects us all every day. I believe if I can do this, anyone, with the help from their family, can do it too.”
To stay close with his grandchildren, 75-year-old Korean grandfather Chan Jae Lee shares his drawings on Instagram.
He often sketches his family.
Astro has grown so much. As soon as he saw grandpa, he laughed. Grandpa laughed back and the house is filled with laughters. Arthur, Allan, can you hear the laughter?
Yesterday was your grandma's birthday. Doesn't she seem happy? Your grandma was born on December 23, 1942. So how old is she?
…Especially his youngest grandson, Astro.
Astro received a mini circus tent as a Christmas gift. “Come find grandpa!” Where does the voice come from? Astro is carefully looking inside the tent.
Run, Astro, run!
Who is this? It's little monkey called Astro getting ready for the Halloween.
Astro, we saw the photo of you crying on Santa's lap. He's a bit strange looking, right? That's okay, because no one has seen the real Santa. He only comes in when everyone is deep asleep. Your grandpa never received a Christmas gift growing up. That's because we were very poor during the Korean War, and also because I didn't even know Santa Claus even existed. Still today I'd like to hang big socks like you do.
He also likes to draw things he sees,
We met this little dog in the elevator. Isn't the cute? We were told he's old.
Take a look at people who are carrying heavy loads. Take a look at people who have hard lives. Let's be empathetic and let's try to help them.
Kids are going to school together. “Hold my hand tight.” Dad and the big brother are making the little one feel safe.
Kids are playing happily together. African kids are playing in the immense nature. How do Korean kids play? These days, it's hard to see kids in São Paulo playing on the streets.
Places he visits…
This is state sponsored “Sala São Paulo” hall in the entrance of Bom Retiro neighborhood. Grandpa and grandpa go there for orchestra concerts sometimes.
We drank coffee at a café with a beautiful flower mural. It was in a small city called “Embu” where you can find traditional old Brazilian furniture, craftwork and food. This mural reminded us of the painter Gustav Klimt's work.
The time when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to see my grandson Astro.
Grandma: Oh my! I can't believe it's already the last day of 2016! Grandpa: Time is always flowing, so there's no last.
…and things he likes.
Young horses are training together at Korea's Jeju Island. Cute, right? Don't you want to ride too? There was a time your uncle Ji also learned how to ride a horse as a boy when he arrived in Brazil.
2017 is the year of the rooster. Chickens and roosters are very diligent animals. Even in the winter chickens lay their eggs, sit on them, and the chicks are born. Sometimes, this many! Peek, peek, peek… Baby chicks kick the dirt and run towards their mom. I wonder what she told her chicks.
In Korea it's a fall season. Time of persimmons. In Brazil, it's so hot grandpa and grandma slept with the windows open.
All children's friend is a dinosaur. Even in Brazil people discovered dinosaur's fossils. Why do you think they disappeared?
For you guys who love strawberries, let's eat them together. No need to add sugar.
And little Astro is the loving inspiration behind the entire project.
Hear the Korean grandfather and budding artist's full story through his son's adorable, emotional, and emoji-filled Facebook video: