Do you wish you could draw like this? Do you want to be able to produce kawaii drawings anytime, anywhere, and on any subject? Yes, me too!
When I first discovered the work of PicCandle (the drawing on the right), I was mesmerised.
I thought, “OMG, these are amazing.” And then I thought, “I want to draw like this!”
My Grand Plan to Learn How to Draw Kawaii in 6 Months
Can it really be done? Can I learn to draw like this?
At first I felt intimidated by how awesome the drawings look, and how difficult the task seems to be…
But I kept coming back to it in my mind, week after week.
One day I was listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss on how to learn any skill fast. That’s it!!! That’s the answer to my challenge!
I decided to apply the techniques Tim talks about to learning how to draw kawaii. I am giving myself 6 months of (somewhat) focused practice to see what can be achieved. I say “somewhat”, because I am a Mum of a very energetic toddler :). So I have very limited time to practice.
Tim Ferriss’ Method for Learning Anything Faster
The method is to break down skill into the smallest learnable units. Then select and practice the units that have the biggest effect on the desired outcome (in this case, ability to draw kawaii).
To help remember the steps, Tim suggests an acronym DiSSS (ignore the “i”): Deconstruct, Select, Sequence, Stakes.
Let’s look at how each step applies to learning kawaii.
What are the simplest skills that are required to draw kawaii successfully. I started by making a list (in no particular order). I just looked at the drawings I want to create and listed what I thought to be relevant.
Use of materials
Thickness of lines
Ability to draw perfect circles
Balance of light and dark
Interaction between objects
Combining different shapes in an interesting design
Large visual vocabulary of images (knowing how to draw many things from memory)
Ability to colour in large areas fast and even
As you can see, it’s a large and unfocused list. All over the place! But that’s ok, next step is selecting the skills that matter.
I spoke with a few friends who draw to select my top skills. I also used my own experience…
I’ve concluded that the most important skills to practice are “pen skills”. If I can master the foundational skills of drawing straight lines and (almost) perfect circles, I could then focus on memorising many kinds of faces etc. But I wouldn’t be stressed about my lines looking shaky and uneven.
The rest of the skills on the list still have to be practiced, I think… But later.
I eliminated “use of materials” and “colouring in large areas” because these will be practiced as part of other skills. I also skipped “colour” because it’s not directly related to the style of kawaii that I am learning right now.
Ability to draw many things from memory is something that happens over time. I am putting this skill as a future project.
I have sequenced the skills as follows:
Pen skills: drawing lines, circles, textures, etc
Character design skills: faces, accessories, hair styles etc
Storytelling skills: how to make appealing drawings that have a point
Set up Stakes
I have to set up stakes to make sure that I actually show up and do the work. How will I stay accountable? How will I get through the days when I don’t feel like drawing?
Well, making this a public experiment is my way of seting up stakes 🙂
My Learning Schedule
I am giving myself approximately 6 months to practice. To simplify things I am assuming 4 weeks in each month. I know it’s more, but I am creating a schedule that will go over 6 months x 4 weeks = 24 weeks.
Pen skills (Months 1 – 3)
Week 1: How to draw freakishly straight lines
Week 2: How to draw beautiful curves
Week 3: How to draw (almost) perfect circles
Week 4: How to draw squares, triangles and other shapes
Week 5: Ability to space out objects evenly
Week 6: Thick and thin lines: how to make outlines effective with line thickness
Week 7: What makes “good” design
Week 8: Using areas of light and dark to achieve “good” design
Week 9: Textures and patterns
Week 10: Lettering
Week 11: More lettering!
Week 12: Combining and collaging shapes in a “good” design
Character Design (Months 4 – 5)
Week 13: Eyes and mouths
Week 14: Faces, expressions
Week 15: Head and body shapes
Week 16: Hands and feet
Week 17: Clothes
Week 18: Accessories
Week 19: Hair styles
Week 20: Interaction with objects
Storytelling (Month 6)
Now, I know 1 month is NOT enough to learn storytelling. This is just an introduction. My aim is to learn a few scenes that can be used for kawaii situations.
Like building a visual vocabulary of images, storytelling is an on-going practice. I will start simple and build on it.
Week 21: Storytelling
Week 22: Narrative
Week 23: Evoking emotions
Week 24: Humour
How to Draw Kawaii Eyes and Mouths
Put a face on anything, and it looks kawaii. 🙂
I am excited to practice kawaii faces next week, but first I wanted to learn how to draw kawaii eyes and mouths as a separate topic.
The goal of this exercise is to understand different types of kawaii eyes and mouths, so that I can then draw them from memory. I also want to be able to select the best-fitting set of eyes and mouth for a particular expression.
Here are the pens and drawing references I used this week.
I’ve included Amazon links to some of the materials. If Amazon is your shopping place of choice, they will throw a few coins into my piggy bank for referring you (no cost to you). And if not, no worries at all. Just buy them wherever is most convenient.
I must say, Artline is becoming my “go to” pen. I like it better than Micron in this size, because it writes smoother and feels “juicier”. But for a bigger size, I still prefer Micron Graphic.
Now, let’s draw!
How to Draw Kawaii Eyes From Memory
We’ll start with the eyes.
First, I researched the web and filled two pages with different kawaii eyes and expressions. I wasn’t trying to remember them or get them perfect — I just wanted to get a feeling for different kawaii eyes.
I was soon able to sort kawaii eyes into 5 categories: 1) kawaii eyes drawn with simple lines, 2) dot-style kawaii eyes, 3) fancy kawaii eyes with solid areas, 4) kawaii eyes as objects, and 5) kawaii eyes with accessories.
Why categorise? To make them easier to remember! I don’t want to look up the eyes every time I need to draw a face. I want to be able to draw them from memory, and to pick the most appropriate eye style for a particular expression. I will explain below.
But first, let’s look at examples of the 4 kawaii eye categories.
1. Kawaii Eyes Drawn with Simple Lines
This type of kawaii expression is as simple as it gets. In the image below I drew 12 kawaii faces with different eyes, but I kept the mouths and head shapes the same. This way you (and I) can really see how different eyes affect the final expression.
2. Dot-Style Kawaii Eyes
This style is a little more detailed and a little more expressive. In essence, these eyes are composed of dot with a line or shape around it.
The line or shape around the dot is like an eyebrow, it amplifies the emotion.
The dot can be solid or open, either way works. But keep the dot small.
Dot-style eyes are really good to use, if you want to show the direction the character is looking at. The third line of the heads below demonstrates this concept.
3. Fancy Kawaii Eyes
This style of eyes is very expressive and bold. I find that it works well with simple mouths. This way the features are not competing for attention.
Solid eyes should (almost) always have a sparkle. Otherwise, they end up looking like black holes, which doesn’t add to the kawaii charm. This is not a rule, but purely my own personal preference. Take it or leave it 🙂
4. Kawaii Eyes As Objects
These eyes reflect an intense desire of the character, whether it’s money, cheese or diamonds. It’s as if the object is reflecting in the eyes of kawaii, or as if the internal emotion is so strong that it’s coming out through the eyes.
Below are 8 examples.
5. Kawaii Eyes with Accessories
The final way to draw kawaii eyes is to add accessories. Glasses can easily replace the eyes, or be added to the eyes for an different look. Below are 3 faces with glasses: “cool dude”, “nerd” and “victorian era” 🙂
I guess, eyes can be accessorised by tears too, heh.
This is a fun way to dress up your character. I will look at kawaii accessories in detail for Week 18 of this drawing challenge. But here are a few examples.
How to Draw Kawaii Mouths
For Week 12 of this drawing challenge I purchased PicCandle’s practice sheets for drawing kawaii expressions. In the download, Zainab includes a blank page of heads to practice the expressions. So instead of drawing full kawaii faces, I filled the sheet with different kawaii mouths and kept the eyes as simple dots. This way I can clearly see the effect of each mouth on the overall expression.
60 kawaii mouths with simple eyes to see the effect that each mouth has on the resulting kawaii expression
This was a good way to experiment with different kawaii mouths. I again saw patterns, which can be used to draw kawaii mouths from memory and to select the best-fitting mouth for the expression.
Once you understand the rules of thumb, it’s easy to remember different types mouths.
Rules of Thumb for Drawing Kawaii Mouths
Here are 5 rules of thumb to help you with selecting and remembering kawaii mouths.
If the corners of the mouth are pointing up, the character looks happy. If the corners are pointing down, the expression is sad.
If the overall shape of the mouth is flat, the expression is neutral or unamused.
If the mouth is sideways, the character smirking. Good for evil faces!
If the mouth shape is oval or oblong, the expression is fear or surprise.
Adding a tongue exaggerates the emotion.
The drawing below demonstrates some of the rules. I kept the eyes the same in each of the rows, and changed the mouth to see the resulting expression. It’s fun!
To finish this week’s drawing practice, I decided to experiment with different eyes and mouths. The first row has an expressive mouth that would usually work with grumpy eyes. But I just wanted to see what it would look like with other eyes, like sparkly girly eyes and freckles 🙂
The second row has an oval mouth showing teeth, which I paired with a few different eyes. I should create another rule of thumb here: fancy mouths work best with simple eyes, and vice versa.
For the bottom row, I used two very similar mouths. But in one case, the corners of the mouth are pointing up, and in the other they are pointing down. The result? A different emotion is expressed, even though the mouths are almost the same.
Drawing Time Diary
Monday, Feb 6: no drawing Tuesday, Feb 7: 1 h 15 mins Wednesday, Feb 8: 1 h 30 mins Thursday, Feb 9: 45 mins, 1 h Friday, Feb 10: 30 mins, 40 mins Saturday, Feb 11: no drawing Sunday, Feb 12: no drawing