Isn't it strange that some people are simply unmoved by cuteness? We're not talking about extremes of cuteness aggression, a real psychological phenomenon that manifests when someone with that condition expresses an overwhelming desire to obliterate whatever cute thing crosses their path. Note 'expresses'. They don't want to actually destroy cuteness, that's simply the best way that people with this condition can convey how overcome they are when presented with cuteness, to the point that it short-circuits their emotion-processing filters. Let's hope that those sufferers either don't live in Japan or have any desire to visit that country because there, the culture of cute prevails. It even has a name: kawaii. Kawaii takes many forms; writing, fashion and artwork. And it's not strictly a Japanese phenomenon, either. If you've seen Beauty and the Beast, you know of Mrs Potts and her little teacup, Chip. They too are kawaii. In fact, the whole animated band of characters are. Are people who are unmoved by cuteness not fans of that film - or, for that matter, any type of kawaii? It doesn't really matter. You don't have to enjoy cuteness to learn the drawing skills needed to sketch something cute. That's fundamentally what this article is really about.
Origins of Kawaii
Sociologists trace kawaii back to Japan's Edo period (1603-1867); originally, it referred to the charming female inclination to blush. Let's think of the physiology of blushing for a moment. One's colour is heightened, making the cheeks bright red. The excess blood pressure makes the eyes water temporarily, giving them a sparkly look. And the downturned gaze... well, that too is perceived as charming. The original Japanese word for this phenomenon was kao hayushi, literally 'the face is aglow'. Over time, the pronunciation and meaning of the word evolved. Rather than evoking a highly emotional female with eyes cast down as glowing, she came to be known as cute or 'shiny'. Likewise, the word changed, both in spelling and in spoken form. It went from kao hayushi to kawayui, and, finally, to kawaii. It's much easier to trace kawaii's roots than Groot's, the tree-like alien that gained fame in the Guardians of the Galaxy film franchise. Does anyone know why Stan Lee gave that character the Dutch word for 'large'? Still, you don't have to know about kawaii's roots to draw kawaii images. Or Groot's for that matter. You could draw Groot or baby Groot with no care about that creature's provenance. But you do have to know something about kawaii's origins to keep to the aesthetic.
What Is, and Isn't Kawaii
Kawaii is the culture of cute, but not everything cute can be kawaii.
Kittens and puppies, for instance. Could there be anything cuter than a puppy? What could be sweeter than puppies' fat little bellies and waggy little tails? And what could compete with puppy kisses? Adorable baby animals may be given the attribute of kawaii, as in 'That dog is too cute!' (kono inu wa kawaisugiru!). Essentially, the context reads that the puppy has kawaii-like traits of cuteness while not being outright labelled kawaii. Compare that to buying an article of clothing or other merchandise styled in the kawaii genre. In such instances, the word kawaii becomes a part of the article's name. For instance, a kawaii backpack becomes Kawaī bakkupa~tsu. From this, we conclude that, while nature provides cuteness aplenty, kawaii is restricted to manufactured cute. Further evidence of that comes when labelling people, most often women, kawaii. Baby girls are undeniably cute. Just ask any father; he'll tell you that his baby daughter managed to wrap his heart and soul around her tiny little finger the second he laid eyes on her; at a time when she didn't even know she had fingers. He will also tell you that his protective instinct went into overdrive, a phenomenon common to most new fathers. Fathers also protect and cherish their sons; let's not confuse that. And we're not saying that baby boys can't be adorable, either. They are. If you want to find out for yourself, try drawing a baby or two and you'll see how boy babies can be just as sweet as girl babies. It's just that daughters, for millennia perceived as weaker and smaller, more delicate and gentler are treated with a different type of reverence. Therein lies the essence of kawaii, the culture wherein perceived human female traits of vulnerability and appeal are projected onto a variety of imagined figures.
Kawaii and Men
If kawaii means to represent the essence of vulnerable femininity, where do males fit in?
Men are no strangers to kawaii. Indeed, many are creators and purveyors of cuteness; you might even consider Hayao Miyazaki's iconic Totoro Kawaii Incorporated. For those of you who aren't familiar with Mr Miyazaki's work, check out Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle. And, of course, the one that started it all; My Neighbour Totoro. His stories are filled with strong female heroines - Sophie in Howl, Chihiro in Spirited and, of course, the Princess. Totoro is ostensibly the hero of his tale but it's daughters Sasuke and Mai whom the story revolves around. Layered atop these strong protagonists are real-world concerns of environmental danger and moral tales of vanity, excess and greed. But each take is imbued with kawaii elements. From the susuwatari - the black 'dust spirits' that populate both Totoro and Spirited to the androgynous prettiness of Howl, each of Mr Miyazaki's works, and those of plenty other anime artists are chock-full of kawaii. Most of those artists are male, but that's not where male infatuation with kawaii ends.
Plenty of Japanese men embrace kawaii culture by submitting to eternal rejuvenation routines to keep their young, innocent look. Some men grow their hair long while others, mostly in the entertainment industry wear long-hair wigs, dress in kawaii clothing and speak in the high, breathy voice so characteristic of the genre. So, while kawaii is mainly thought to be a female aesthetic, males take equal pleasure in the creation and practice of kawaii.
The Importance of Kawaii Drawing
Now, with kawaii clearly understood, let's have a talk about why learning to draw kawaii is so important. This culture of cuteness has spread far beyond Japan. Even those who have never seen any anime productions or been to Japan can recognise Hello Kitty on sight and there's a good chance that they've played - or are at least familiar with Pokemon Go, the video game that was all the rage just a few years back. You guessed it, both Kitty and Pikachu are kawaii. These days, kawaii is the biggest sensation in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and, especially South Korea. Let's think about that for a moment. Few nations are wild about any of those eastern Asian countries save for South Korea. Indeed, many are familiar with the Hallyu Wave, the rabid fandom of all things South Korean, from boy bands like BTS (and girl bands like BLACKPINK) to the long list of Kdramas currently populating Netflix. Squid Game, anyone? To be sure, there's no kawaii present in Squid Game but consider the implications of the Hallyu Wave on spreading kawaii love. Everywhere, everyone is rushing to capitalise on the culture of cute. That means advertisers are turning more towards cuteness to hawk their wares, entertainers are incorporating elements of cuteness into their shows and video game designers are perpetually chasing Pokemon for the next big Go... and 'cute' is where they're searching for it. So, as a burgeoning artist, perhaps an art student planning on a career in design, it makes perfect sense for you to learn how to draw kawaii, even if you're no fan of cute. And you couldn't ask for more how to draw a kiss. Unlike other subjects, kawaii is imaginary. You may draw any shape or creature you'd like as long as you incorporate the elements of kawaii.
Elements of Kawaii
We can't simply say 'draw something cute' and call it done. Not every person has the same interpretation of cute, after all. Some people think Thomas the Tank Engine is cuteness personified while others think he's rather creepy. To draw kawaii, you need to remember the elements of cuteness that define the genre:
- 'glowing' eyes
- youthful - or downright young; baby-like
Clearly, a great place to start is by drawing big, glistening eyes, preferably set into a small, pixie face. If you're drawing a human, be sure to frame that face with lots and lots of hair, and make the body childlike with no accentuated adult attributes - but you should hint at them for maximum effect. Pastel colours or, conversely, bright colours - the type a pre-schooler would be attracted to should finish off your work. If you want to try your hand at creating a mythical kawaii beast on your own, something along the lines of Totoro or a dust spirit, let your imagination and your sketching pencil run free. No need to worry about big eyes and appealing weakness, you only need to remember to convey the concept of cuteness convincingly enough that others will become enraptured by your creation. After all, take a good look at Pikachu. He doesn't have big eyes, a complex shape or multi-layered colouring. He's two-toned, has beady eyes and a smallish mouth... but people think he's endearing. With all of that said, what are you supposed to draw if cuteness leaves you unmoved? You could always learn how to draw a kiss. Kisses are on-par with cuteness when it comes to what people like to look at.
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