For three years, students at Valley High School in Iowa had a mystery on their hands. An artist opened an anonymous Instagram account and started posting cartoon drawings of students.
When the drawings started popping up out of nowhere, students wondered who among them was the artist. But, @instadraw_VHS opted to stay behind the screen and the ink.
Eventually, students started posted requests on the social media account for their own drawings. Requests became so popular, some students had to wait up to two years for the final product. No one knew when their cartoon might show up, but about 200 students became the subject of the anonymous artist’s work.
Students did their best to figure out the identity behind @instadraw_vhs. “You just kinda look through the halls, and you’re kinda eyeballing people like, ‘Is it you? Is it you?'” Valley student Olivia McQuerry told KCCI News.
Well, the wait finally ended for the curious students at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
Yearbook Reveals Mystery Artist’s Identity
After three years of guessing and glances around the hallways, Valley High School found out who created these masterpieces thanks to a page in the yearbook.
With a cartoon drawing of herself by her side, student Celine Lie announced her identity to Valley High School and the world. She said she wanted to improve her art in a way that involved the community. Thus, her Instagram account was born. Lie created her work on a digital tablet with a special software package called PaintTool SAI. Her style gets inspiration from Japanese anime, but Lie likes to put her own touch on it to create something unique.
On her yearbook page, she joked she may “have subconsciously been trying to pull off a Hannah-Montana-kind of thing,” but there was another reason for her secret identity.
“At first I was worried about what kind of response I would get and what people would think about my art, so (being anonymous) just makes it easier,” Lie said to KCCI.
It turns out she had nothing to worry about.
“I just think that makes her creativity even more amazing,” said student Beth Hammond.
“I haven’t gotten any negative reactions, only compliments of my hard work over the past three years,” Lie said to The Des Moines Register. “All the positive feedback I’ve gotten makes me glad that I stuck with it for all this time.”
Expanding Beyond Instagram Art
While Lie enjoyed her secret identity, now she’s meeting new friends and making new connections thanks to her talents. Her Instagram account has more than 16,500 followers and she had to shut down requests because they flooded her inbox.
Over the years, Lie received requests to illustrate children’s books, create logos and design T-shirts. So she plans to expand her art audience beyond Valley High School.
Lie graduated in May and plans to attend Drake University to study pharmaceutical science. However, she still plans to continue drawing.