The Korea Herald


[Digital Simplicity] Doodling as a way to stay calm amid pandemic

By Yang Sung-jin

Published : Aug. 28, 2020 - 17:00

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When I was a kid, I enjoyed drawing. I created, in my view, not-so-bad paintings. I won some awards at drawing contests. My classmates said I was talented. I even dreamed of becoming a cartoonist.

Full of confidence, I had asked my parents to pay for a private art class. I attended art class far more enthusiastically than regular classes at school, learning various basic techniques from simple drawing to watercolor and oil paintings.

Naturally, drawing is one of my main hobbies. Somehow, I have ended up working as a journalist. Whenever I looked back on my past, I wonder what I would have become if I went on the path of becoming a cartoonist, majoring in visual art or something similar that would boost my artistic career.

But I know my limitations too well. My not-so-bad drawing is, after all, doodling. I usually draw some cartoon characters I like, or imaginary figures that I might use for my webtoon, if I ever step into the cutthroat genre.

A couple of my Facebook friends post amazing artworks they have created. I admire their talent and hard work. Increasingly, I am questioning my drawing skills. Not sure whether my drawings are good enough to be shown on social media, I keep the results of my doodling to my sketchbook, computer and iPad.

In recent months, I have been consuming plenty of digital content related to drawing techniques and video created by a new crop of digital visual artists.
On YouTube, there are now tons of new, high-quality videos about drawing techniques. My impression is that more people are drawn into this genre because they want to doodle away their free time at home, thanks largely to the COVID-19 pandemic that renders outdoor activities utterly dangerous.

Digital painting has long been advancing as a full-fledged artistic genre, with professional painters juggling PhotoShop, Illustrator and other digital tools to generate dazzling artworks.

The overwhelming demand for digital art on YouTube, however, is driven by amateurs or those who are straddling between hobbyists and professional artists. They often arm themselves with the iPad and Apple Pencil, learn the basics from YouTube tutorial videos and reach a respectable level on their own.

What has amazed me the most is a group of YouTube creators called “thumbnailers.” They usually work for other YouTubers, who are mostly active in gaming. Thumbnailers regularly produce a set of drawings to be included in the videos of their paying clients. One of the main drawings is used for the thumbnail image for YouTube video, which is where their name comes from.

In this particular genre, the majority of YouTubers and thumbnailers keep their faces hidden. They place their cartoon characters up front, asking viewers to take them as their virtual characters, many of which take the features of Japanese manga characters, with incredibly big and sparkling eyes, big heads and disproportionately tiny bodies.

One famous thumbnailer runs her own channel, attracting those who are interested in drawing comics. She recently opened a private online chatroom in which participants are required to submit drawings every day to stay in. I also tried to join the chatroom to improve my lackluster drawing skills, but failed to squeeze in, because it quickly reached its 200-member limit.

A comic art school based in Daegu has a big presence on YouTube, as it promotes its teachers as well as marketers through real-time “drawing shows.” Thousands of people flock to watch the live videos, chatting with each other about character drawings and interacting with the presenter, who shows how to draw digital cartoon characters.

Not just on YouTube but also on other social media, especially Instagram, this type of digital drawing is quickly gaining popularity.

Digital drawing tools are widely available, and pictures can be uploaded easily on social media to be shared with others. Video tutorials and related videos are getting churned out across the world on YouTube. These factors, coupled with the resurgence of the dreadful coronavirus, appear to encourage people to draw and doodle.

I’m not sure whether I can regain my confidence as a doodler, but it seems that there are not many other choices that are safer than digital drawing in the pandemic era. 

By Yang Sung-jin (

Yang Sung-jin is the multimedia editor of The Korea Herald. -- Ed.