Knowing All about Hunan

Gamer evolves into online celebrity

Updated:2017-11-08 09:56:31

  It was 8 pm. Ouyang Pengjie opened his account on Bilibili, a livestreaming service where viewers can interact with hosts, and began to draw. Soon, he had more than 14,000 people watching him work.

  Unlike other livestream hosts, he does not speak. Sitting in front of his computer, he just draws with his ballpoint and fountain pens. The only sound is soft background music.

  Ouyang is one of the most popular livestreaming hosts in China. Using various types of ink, he can produce extremely detailed images and can even create three-dimensional effects that astonish viewers.

  One piece can take him from a few hours to several days to complete, depending on the complexity.

  "I sometimes feel lonely when I'm drawing, and the loneliness can force me to talk to myself," said the artist, who hails from Changsha, Hunan province.

  The internet has always been his safe space, but its role has changed over the years. Ten years ago, Ouyang, who was born in the 1990s, spent most of his time in internet cafes playing online games.

  "All I drew was game strategies in notebooks," he said. "I cut class on the first day of senior high school to go to an internet cafe, but my father dragged me out."

  It was not until the next year that Ouyang was told he had a talent for art. "My art teacher told my parents that I had a gift for drawing. Her words gave me hope," he said.

  Yet the road to becoming an artist was not easy.

  "I was always ranked bottom in art exams in Changsha. I continued to practice, sleeping only three to four hours a day, and finally after about two months I came first," he said. "I obtained my first award and scholarship for drawing. It set a new direction for my life."

  After graduating from university in Hunan, Ouyang moved to Beijing to become a freelance illustrator.

  "When I first came to the capital, I lived in a small room measuring less than 10 square meters," he said. Now, he lives in Songzhuang, a popular art district where thousands of tourists come to view artists studios every day.

  His drawing skills have won him millions of followers online. Over the past decade, since discovering his talent he has created more than 1,200 artworks.

  In August, Ouyang took 100 hours to create a pen-and-ink piece titled Chase. In the drawing, an eagle takes flight as it is chased by an elephant and a hippo in a river, generating huge splashes of water. The drawing is so intricate it could be a photograph.

  "I want to express an ideal mental outlook in the picture - that you should chase your dreams just like animals do, and never give up, no matter how difficult it is," he said.

  Ouyang said he wants to build a reputation in the art world, not just online, and promote pen drawing skills at universities to popularize what is seen as niche art form in China.

  "Only by standing taller and becoming more capable can more people recognize you, and enable you to convey what you want to express," he said.