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Drawing Kanji

There are two things I’m trying to improve these days.

My drawing skills, and my Japanese skills.

Last October, we can say that my attempt at Inktober was a success. That doesn’t mean that all the drawings I made were good – they weren’t – it means that the challenge reignited my love for drawing and made me realize that, no, I was not hopeless with drawing.
However, since the end of the operation, I haven’t drawn much. And we all know that if I want to actually get better at drawing, I now need to draw on a regular basis. On the one hand, November has been pretty busy (at work with midterm exams and such, my free time with my other big side project), on the other hand, I didn’t find much inspiration at drawing random things.

That’s where the Japanese language comes into play. My skills in the language are much weaker than they should be, especially my reading skills that remain very low. However, recently, I stumbled upon a pretty interesting and fun book called Kanji Starter, written by Daiki Kusuya (published by IBC Publishing, 2016).

The book basically teaches kanji through drawings. Well, kanji “are” drawings, and their origins, just like every other ideogram, are depictions of actual things that got more and more symbolized and/or abstract with time. The book takes kanji and reverses them back into drawings. Sometimes, to the actual drawing that the kanji originates from. Sometimes not, it just creates a drawing from the kanji that will help understand and memorize its meaning. If you’re not too sure what I’m talking about, it will all make sense with some examples (that are coming in this post).

The book gave me the idea to basically do the same. Follow the book, take kanji, and turn them into drawings too (sometimes the same as the one in the book, sometimes not).

Here are my first two attempts.

We start with very basic and simple kanji and drawings:


Mountain – 山



The kanji for moutain  (pronounced “yama” or “-san”) is the very first kanji I learned, about 20 years ago, so it makes sense that I start this new project with it. And if you were too sure about what I meant earlier, now it’s starting to make sense, isn’t it? You see how the kanji is a very stylized depiction of a mountain. The book (and I) simply turned it back into a more figurative drawing of a mountain. Right now it’s straightforward and easy. We’ll get into more complicated and abstract things sooner or later.

The second kanji I drew is also pretty easy to learn and is also one of the very first ones I learned:


Tree – 木




This one is pretty self-explanatory too. However, I need to insist on the fact that I’m not “recreating” the original drawing that led to the design of the kanji. I’m just drawing something that looks like it and explains its meaning as much as possible. For example, here, the original kanji doesn’t really depict one trunk and five branches, but rather the roots and the branches of the tree (and no trunk?)

I guess I’ll post future drawings here if you don’t mind. Also, I made a portfolio regrouping them all on my other site. You can check it out here:


Stay tuned.


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