• Anna

Ink work - Biro pen - Yubaba from Spirited Away

Spirited away movie poster

Spirited away

Before I start talking about my art, I just want to highlight one of the most successful animated films ever - Spirited away. Director and film-writer Hayao Miyazaki has created an anime film that was successful not just within the anime niche, but the whole world. Whether you're an anime lover, an artist, or bob from the local bakery, this film is a must watch.

I've seen Spirited away back when I was still a teenager, many many moons ago. It was the first Studio Ghibli film I've seen and I remember the feeling it gave me. It was so surreal since it wasn't real, but the child in me was 100% invested in it's reality. This film took me back to when my sister and I told each other stories created by our imaginations. Spirited away brought my childhood stories into concrete visual reality.

After seeing it again for so long, it still managed to summon the same emotional reaction as the first time around. This movie is a classic that will never grow old and it re-ignited my desire to draw anime. After all, it's not everyday you can find motivational, epic anime like this.

Feature character - Yubaba

I decided to take a a variety of still shots from Spirited away to help me decide what to draw. As I went through the film, Yubaba (the bath house boss) piqued my interest. I noticed all the detail on her face and how 'messy' she looked. Her face is organised chaos personified.

I love how Studio Ghibli exaggerates the facial expression of their characters. If they go cross-eyed because they're angry, that's perfect. If their eyes got bigger by 200% to show shock, that's the way to go. With Yubaba, her normal face is already exaggerated due to the sheer size of her head. This makes her an entertaining character to watch and an interesting subject to draw.

Yubaba perched like a bird from anime movie Spirited away.

Above: One thing I love about her design is that she has the ability to 'morph' into a bird, whilst keeping her prominent features.


Yubaba Close up with rings and cigarette from anime movie Spirited away.

Above: Movie still of Yubaba from Spirited Away

I was specifically drawn to Yubaba's face. I mean, let's be honest, you can't really un-see her face once you've seen her. She also wouldn't be complete as a character without the rings on her fingers. So picked a close up still shot of her which included all of these elements.

The drawing

Biro, Ballpen, Pen art of Yubaba from Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. Black and white anime drawing by Anna Legaspi Art

Above: Biro drawing on A5 paper. Anna Legaspi 2021

Tools used

  • Mechanical pencil

  • Rubber or eraser

  • Unbranded biro pen

  • A5 sketchbook paper (170 gsm)

  • Music from my Jazz Anime by Anna Legaspi on Spotify to set the mood.


Anime characters tend to have smooth clean faces so it was refreshing to draw Yubaba's wrinkles, rings and frills. Firstly, I did a freehand sketch of Yubaba using a mechanical pencil and rubber. Once I was happy with my sketch, I lightly went over my sketch using a biro pen. Following this, I focused on the details and started cross-hatching away. I would start with light cross-hatching and build on it as I needed to. I feel this is the best way as you can't erase biro or undo mistakes. The best part of this process for me is definitely the shading. Since Yubaba's face is so detailed, I didn't have to think too much if I needed to 'fill up the white spaces'. This is the first time I've drawn an 'old' anime character and I'm quite proud of how it turned out.

Up Next

I'm now keen on experimenting using biro on other anime characters and I'm planning on indulging myself to a few more Ghibli films. In fact, I've just re-watched My Neighbour Totoro and I've already got the still shot I'm going to use as reference for my next drawing.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my thoughts on Spirited away and I hope my art has made a positive contribution to your day. If you like what you've seen so far and want to follow my art journey, please follow my socials or subscribe to get emails when I've got a new post.

Remember, It's not about creating the best art, but creating art that makes you happy!

All the best and until next time!

Lots of love and positivity,