Drawing on old talent. And re-inspiring it. - ji lee family grandfather grandchild

My 73 years old retired dad and my mom who live in Brazil came to New York recently to visit their grandson Astro Lee for the first time. While they were with us, I taught my dad how to use Instagram to share his drawings.

I could end my story here, but I think there’s a little more to be told.

Here’s a little bit about my dad. He’s one of the most creative and talented people I know. He never had a formal arts training, but he is naturally talented for drawings, paintings and anything creative. I still remember as a child admiring his sketches and his creative projects. They had a profound influence on developing my own interest in arts and pursing this as a career later on. Despite his talent, he never pursued his creativity for the economic reasons. When my whole family immigrated from Korea to Brazil in the 80’s, he completely gave up his interest in arts because he was busy running a small clothing store with my mom to make the living for the family.

A few years ago, my dad retired and became a full time grandfather for my two nephews (Arthur 11 and Allan 10) by taking care of them while my sister was working. But when my sister and her husband decided to move back to Korea recently, all of sudden my dad had a lot of time on his hands. He spent his days strolling around and watching lots of Korean TV at home. Both my mom and I thought this was bad and we needed to find something meaningful for him to do.

This is when I had the idea of introducing Instagram to my dad. I knew this was a big challenge because he is completely technology illiterate. To give you an idea, he doesn’t know what an email is. He has never used Google. He has never seen a Facebook page. He has a mobile phone, but he only uses it to make and receive phone calls.

My mom (also 73), on the contrary, is very savvy about technology (she has Hotmail AND Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Kakao Talk accounts. Yes, she’s amazing). My mom and I decided she should force my dad to draw, so she could photograph the drawings and post on her Instagram page. My dad reluctantly drew a few things, but he absolutely hated being forced to do it.

When they came to NY two weeks ago, I gave myself a mission to teach my dad how to use Instagram so he can do everything himself without the help my mom’s help, a challenging task to say the least. As I tried to teach him, I quickly realized he had absolutely no interest in learning it because he had lost his interest in drawing a long time ago. Why should he bother learning how to use Instagram if he has no interest in drawing in the first place? This made sense.

So I had to think about a good purpose for him to draw again. I wasn’t going to give up on him so easily after all.

I knew the biggest passion in his life was his three grandchildren. He had also told me he’s sad he will never see what Astro will become one day because by then he would have passed away. With this in mind, I suggested he should make his drawings for Arthur and Allan in Korea, so they can see from far what their grandpa drew for them, and for Astro when he grows up.

I wanted my son to see how creative and talented his grandfather was in case he’s not around anymore by the time Astro is old enough to appreciate his grandpa’s talent the way I did when I was young. I also suggested he could have an exhibition of his Instagram drawings later on. He could easily sell them –I guaranteed – and with this money he could travel more often to NY and Korea to visit his grandkids. I told him this money could also be used to help with their college funds. Now I had his ears. It was amazing how suddenly he showed his interest in learning something he loathed moments earlier.

I helped him create a Gmail account (you need an email to start an Instagram account). I even helped him create a Facebook account so when he shares his latest drawings on Instagram, he can also share them on Facebook to get more exposure. We brainstormed his Instagram handle and we decided on @drawings_for_my_grandchildren. We went through all important things one can do on Instagram starting from how open the Instagram app. We went through how to take a photo, how to use the photo editing tools, how to write a story (he types extremely slowly), how to post, how to like a photo, and how to edit the text. We even went through understanding what is a hashtag and how to use it.

I showed some talented artists on Instagram and he said, “That’s it? I can do better than this!” This was an important moment for him. For some reason, he thought his drawings were not good enough for Instagram. After a few sessions over a couple of days, he finally got it and I think he’s starting to actually enjoy it.

This was an amazing experience for me in so many different ways. First, I realized how much I take my knowledge about technology granted. The vast majority of people in my father’s generation have absolutely no idea about what I find so elementary. Learning new things for anyone at any age can be intimidating. Imagine for someone as old as my dad who has for a long time formed an opinion that technology isn’t for him. But, if there’s a compelling reason to learn, and with a little encouragement, people may feel compelled to learn it very quickly, because their desire to understand the unknown may become bigger than their fear of it.

If my father can do it, anyone can do it.

I learned that my dad is still amazingly creative and more talented than ever before. I’m so happy I was able to help him finally express his talent and share it with the world. I’m so proud of him that he was open to doing it. I hope Arthur, Allan and Astro will come to appreciate his mind and his talent as much as I do.

If you like what you see on his Instagram page, please consider following him and giving him some love. This would make him very happy and proud. Thank you.


ji lee father drawings instagram



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95% of life is spent on autopilot.

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