KJEL is a Facebook page specialising in producing original character designs, concept illustration, and comic book art. The main purpose of KJEL is to create fun content for everyone to enjoy, while promoting individual artists.
KJEL was started in 2013 by a group of teenagers. Its main purpose then was simply to promote Cambodian art. Over time, its focus has narrowed to comic art, under the direction of two of its cofounders.
Kan Sereysopheak, known as Tyl, 21, is a fourth-year student at Limkokwing University and a cofounder of KJEL. “At first, KJEL had a lot of groups of artists, with no specific direction, but later on I and a friend, another cofounder, started to focus on comics and cute characters. Then we came up with the idea of producing our own KJEL characters.”
This page started out garnering just a few hundred likes on Facebook, but after the change in focus this jumped to 3,000. It hit the 11,000-like mark last year.
Ms Tyl said, “It was beyond our expectations; the page was just intended for entertainment, so [the strong reception] has given us a motivation to move forward.”
Tyl said KJEL’s membership is not fixed; many original members have moved on due to busy schedules. Many times the comic page seemed like it was about to fold due to lack of interest, but she drew on the support of friends to keep it going.
Despite the challenges, the two cofounders were able to produce T-shirts, pins and stickers with KJEL logos and sell them in markets, after getting a good response from friends. In 2016, KJEL developed a strong following among young people, and demand grew for their goods.
The group only releases KJEL items once a year.
Tyl said she doesn’t want KJEL to be all about business. “I want this group to create quality content and introduce original cartoon characters. Our characters don’t look like typical Khmer cartoons; they’re more universal. I want to show that young Cambodians can also create this type of art, not just foreigners. And that the quality is good too.”
KJEL has plans to get into animated films with educational content.
Ms Tyl said, “Artists should learn as much as they can about different styles of art, not just stick with one style. You should create your own art and accept criticism so that you can grow as an artist. If you decide you want to do something, just do it. Commit yourself, but like KJEL, it could take three years to achieve.”