Itaewon's Amazing Speed Portraitist

      August 30, 2014 08:47

      Jang Jae-min

      An obscure young artist has become one of the attractions of Itaewon market on Saturdays with his astonishing speed-drawing skills.

      Jang Jae-min (30) spends just 10 seconds to draw one portrait for W10 (US$1=W1,022). All he needs is a piece of paper and a permanent marker. Every Saturday around 300 to 400 people queue up to get their quick portraits sketched.

      Jang has been doing this job for nearly 10 years in Itaewon and the Hongik University area. As of Wednesday, he thinks he had drawn 43,899 faces. To celebrate his jubilee, Jang is holding a solo exhibition featuring some 100 of his works at a small gallery in Seoul from Aug. 15.

      The works on display are "special editions," Jang said, with some extra features like colors.

      "I first started it for fun, out of boredom when I was a student. But as I continued to do it, I realized that it's not just expensive paintings by famous artists that are valuable," he says. "I wanted to share the joy of art with as many people as possible at a low price. Homeless people come and buy their portraits from me. I can't stop doing it because I've seen so many faces light up when they see their portrait done."

      But after all those portraits he still does not feel he has mastered the art completely. He tries to reflect the characteristics of the person in simple and concise lines.

      "Even the most ordinary-looking faces have at least one characteristic that stands out. But I have to draw a portrait in a very short time, so I sometimes miss it. Anyway, I try to draw people as honestly as possible," he says.

      Some people are disappointed and even offended by the end result. "Some people get angry and complain, 'why does my face look like this?' or 'it doesn't look like me one bit!' Then I tell them, 'I just draw what W10 is worth.'"

      Jang wants to keep drawing as long as his energy permits. "When I have a bag full of W10 coins, I take it to a bank to get the coins changed into bills. I've done it for 10 years, but I've made less than W1 million from it in total. It's not my main job, it's just part of my life. I'll continue until I draw 100,000 or even 1 million."

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