Presented here is the ‘Obake Karuta alphabet’ project. It originated from an assignment to create a hand-drawn, fantasy latin alpabet over a spread out period of time. Each letter was to be created separately and then to be combined at the end of the deadline. I therefore took inspiration from Karuta, which can best be described as (old) Japanese playing cards.

The project leans particularly close to the ‘Obake Karuta‘ (ghost cards or monster cards), a variation of cards from the Edo period and unique to the Tokyo area. In these sets each card would feature a hiragana syllable combined with a creature from Japanese mythology. One would win the game by collecting the most cards by knowing the most monsters which can be guessed by various clues found on the cards. These cards are often seen as a base for popular characters in Japanese culture like Godzilla and as the precursors to the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! card games.

Each monster was created by sketching out its overall look in the shape of a letter. When satisfied with the result, a second drawing would be softly outlined on a separate sheet of aquarelle/watercolor paper and painted in several colours and layers of ink. The general drawing would then be outlined on a sheet of see-through paper. All the drawing were then scanned and combined in Photoshop.

Below is a simplified example of the work method. First several small sketches are made, of which is selected and then softly sketched on an aquarelle/watercolor sheet on a bigger scale. Once the sketch is complete, it is painted with ink and an overall outline is made on a second piece of paper. These are then all combined and presented as one single illustration.