A 75-year-old grandfather, who initially refused social media, has found a beautiful and touching way to connect with his loved ones through his artwork on Instagram.
Ji Lee, who lives in New York, tried for years to convince his father, "Grandpa Chan," who lives in Brazil, to try Instagram. But not only was his father not interested, he didn't use computers, never heard of Instagram, and didn't use email.
He only used his cell phone, and for phone calls only, Lee said.
After Lee had his baby, his father, who he jokingly calls a "grumpy old man," fell in love with little "Astro" and wondered what the little baby's future would hold "because I won't be around anymore," he told Lee.
Heartbroken at that thought, together, they hatched a plan that his father actually liked to finally get on board with Instagram. Grandpa Chan would draw pictures for his three grandchildren, which would give his art purpose, and his wife, who was social media proficient, would post it to Instagram with a story.
The result was a viral hit. More than 312,000 followers later, "Drawings for my Grandchildren" has become a success. Grandpa Chan creates drawings every day and his wife, who is also 75, regularly posts the stories to go along with them.
"We’re very excited so many people around the world seem to enjoy our project and even find inspiration to connect better with their family and to start their own project," said Lee.
There are photos of landscapes, animals, city scenes, dinosaurs, and of course his grandchildren. "Boys, do you remember the street on the way to grandpa's apartment? Do you remember the big tree on the first crossroads? That's an avocado tree," said one post, which continued on into a story about men fetching avocados there.
"Look! Astro loves dinosaurs and finally became friends with one!" said another post of a drawing of a large blue dinosaur with the grandchildren on its back.
Each of the drawings have a heartfelt story about a memory or the family.
The posts are also translated into Portuguese and Korean.
Through his drawings, Grandpa Chan also hopes to share lessons of the family's Korean culture and in the posts, the messages are directed right at the three grandsons.
Because of his drawings, Lee says the family communicates every day, Lee says.
The drawings have become so popular, with tens of thousands of likes on each post, that Grandpa Chan now sells them as prints online, which are printed along with the story. He also has two book deals and has had a few exhibitions and a commission from National Geographic.
"At 75, he’s starting a whole new career thanks to the project," said Lee. We’re all very thankful. And the grandchildren are also thrilled their grandpa has become famous," he said.
Meanwhile, in the three years of his drawings on Instagram, Astro has started to run and Arthur and Allan (the other grandchildren) are no longer small boys, Lee said. But Grandpa Chan now knows a lot about Instagram! (He is also on Facebook now, too!)