Farjana sits in her verandah at home in Cumilla and make her drawing lesson videos for YouTube.
Farjana sits in her verandah at home in Cumilla and make her drawing lesson videos for YouTube. Collected

Farjana's father Md Jahangir Alam, an army officer, had a penchant for pencil sketches and spent his spare time drawing and doodling. As a child, Farjana would watch her father sketching and she too grew a deep interest in drawing. She never had any formal art classes. She just picked up her skills from her father.

Farjana is around 30 years old now. She married quite early and continued with her passion for drawing pictures. Her husband Md Mustafizur Rahman encouraged her too. Then one day he suggested she start a YouTube channel where she could teach drawing.

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Farjana says, "I had been interested in freelancing and had started learning about SEO (search engine optimisation) and graphics. But then when my husband came up with his suggestion about a YouTube channel, I jumped at the chance."

On 21 January 2017, Farjana started her YouTube channel. She demonstrated how to draw fruit. In no time her Farjana Drawing Academy got 22,000 subscribers. And in the very first year she got the YouTube 'Silver Play Button' for getting 100,000 subscribers. Last year she got the 'Gold Button' for 1 million subscribers.

This popular YouTube channel for drawing lessons has over 5.5 million subscribers. On Thursday it hit 710 million views.

"Within five months of starting my channel, I got my first earning from YouTube -- 65,000 taka. I got another 40,000 taka the same month."

When a channel on YouTube gets a lot of views, advertisements come in and the owner of the channel gets a percentage of the ad revenue. Farjana is doing well now. She said the main reason she can earn so well is that the video is viewed more from abroad.

This popular YouTube channel for drawing lessons has over 5.5 million subscribers. On Thursday it hit 710 million views.

Through Farjana Drawing Academy, Farjana teaches pencil sketching. Her channel tops all the You Tube channels that teach drawing. According to Social Blade and NoxInfluencer, Farjana's channel has the second highest number of subscribers in Bangladesh. Incidentally, there are many channels known as Bangladeshi and run from Bangladesh, though the country of origin is shown elsewhere.

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Farjana lives in Cumilla. She makes her videos in her verandah. And around 94 per cent of the views come from outside of the country. The most views, 60 per cent, are from India. Next is Bangladesh, then Pakistan, the US, Iraq and other countries.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Farjana says, "Other than some very close persons, no one really knows that I teach drawing over You Tube. Even on YouTube, no one knew where I was from. The Indians thought I was Indian, Pakistanis thought I was from their country. The subscribers would even argue about that!"

She said everyone was surprised when they found out she was from Bangladesh. "Once they knew, they encouraged me even more," she said.

Simple sketching is popular

Farjana teaches very simple methods of sketching on YouTube. She doesn't even speak on the videos. There is just background music.

What makes her channel so popular. Farjana says, "I use very easy methods of sketching. In most video tutorials, people use pencils of various shades and this is not easy to follow. I just use a five taka dark pencil."

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"I mostly target those who are absolutely new. That's why I am quite well known as a drawing teacher on YouTube."

Farjana mostly sketches faces of young people. Sometimes she draws animals, sometimes scenery. Two of her sketches have had over 30 million views. Both were drawn very simply. Many of her videos have been viewed over 20 million times.

She uses her mobile phone camera to make the videos. She says, "I make the videos in daylight. I take one hour to do a sketch. I spend 30 minutes in drawing and take breaks in between."

After making the video, she edits it herself too. Finally she uploads a 10 to 12 minute video on YouTube. On average she uploads a video every four days. She said that her subscribers have asked her to upload the videos even sooner.

Farjana is from Muradnagar, the second among Jahangir Alam and Kajol Rekha's five offspring. She is now studying for her post graduate degree at Cumilla's Government Victoria College. Her husband Mustafizur Rahman is a businessman. They have a nine-year-old son Sourav.

She has another channel, Farjana's Craft, where she teaches how to make things with paper. But she can't give much time or attention to that channel. She remains engrossed in making her drawing lesson videos.

Prothom Alo made a phone call to Farzana on 30 October. After introductions, she said, "I know someone in Prothom Alo, the editor Matiur Rahman."

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How does she know him? She explains. Back in 2009 she had won 300 taka in prize bonds for a picture she painted in Prothom Alo's Tuesday supplement Naksha. The prize came along with a letter signed by the editor. She has carefully preserved the letter.

She says that the prize she got for Naksha was an inspiration for her to draw. And when her father heard that she won the Naksha prize, he himself took initiative to teach her different methods of drawing.

This feature appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir