Cartoons with a click of the mouse

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Cartoons with a click of the mouse

What would have gone through Leonardo da Vinci’s mind had he made a fatal mistake on a masterpiece? The great Italian artist probably would have started over, cursing in frustration and breaking a paintbrush or two, or perhaps seething in silence.
Luckily, Jung Hee-jung, a college student, need not suffer in this manner. The latest computer illustration technology lets her erase her mistakes in an instant and start fresh. One click and it’s gone. Ms. Jung and 191 others, some preparing to become professional illustrators, display their talent at Oekaki for Mania, an online club she founded in November 2002.
The virtual club supports a collection of nearly 1,000 sketches, some of them nice imitations of photographs. All are produced with tools from the club’s sketch board, which includes a selection of brush types and colors.
Unlike such well-known software as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, used to enhance pictures, the club sketch board contains no tools for producing special effects such as lightening, smoothing out or shading colors. All touch-ups using the sketch board are done manually by the artist.
While few club members possess any formal art education, they are nonetheless able to produce impressive works of art using the computer mouse as a brush, Ms. Jeong says.
“I cannot express in words how I feel looking at other people’s work,” Ms. Jeong says. “There’s a lot of amazing stuff. Since I’m not too good at drawing I try to comfort myself that all I’ve got to do is run the club smoothly.”
Ms. Jung studies engineering, but her passion for cartoons since middle school gave her the impetus to set up the club.
One of Ms. Jung’s tasks is picking applicants to join the club after discussing their application with members. The rules of applying are not, however, very strict: The applicant need only have posted some work online and enjoy drawing. Quality doesn’t count, Ms. Jung points out.
Ms. Jung says she visits the club’s Web site every day, and as a high school student last year she filled entire days operating this virtual artists’ community, one of a number of such sites on the Web.
“But nowadays there are just too many other things I need to attend to,” Ms. Jung says.
Kim Sang-geun, a martial arts instructor who works at a software company, plays down his artistic ability, noting he never went to art school. Nonetheless, his best-known cartoon characters, a red rabbit and a white dog, are beloved by many Oekaki members.
“I fell in love with the sketch board last year,” Mr. Kim says. “I like it because the tools are simple and you don’t have to be a professional to draw.”
Kwon Ji-young, an art student, whiles away a good part of her days drawing on the club’s sketch board.
But not all members bother posting their amateur doodles; some go to the Web site only to view other people’s work.
If Mr. Da Vinci had had a computer and the Internet would he have joined Oekaki for Mania? Who knows ― the next da Vinci might just be a club member.

by Lee Ho-jeong
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