Yuko Shimizu at Drawger.com

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So far Yuko Shimizu at Drawger.com! has created 55 blog entries.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

By |December 23rd, 2013|Uncategorized|

Many of you may be off from school or work, and heading home to see your family. Every year, I pick an image I created over the course of the year that is the most Christmas-y to post here as my online holiday card. This year, this odd Candy land ...

life after art school, now what? conversation on JUXTAPOZ

By |August 28th, 2013|Uncategorized|

The latest issue of JUXTAPOZ Magazine(September 2013) has a big feature called Art School 101, where recent graduates from four different US art schools ask questions to their professors about life after art school. I had an honor to represent School of Visual Arts where I have been teaching illustration classes since 2003. One of my former students and very talented young artist Jensine Eckwall and I had a conversation which is featured in this article. The whole conversation took place in my studio earlier this summer.  We probably talked and talked for more than an hour. JUXTAPOZ editors did a great job condensing the essence of conversation into just three pages. Since there are a lot of you out there, some outside of the US where you can get this magazine, who have the same questions Jensine has, I wanted to post the whole conversation here. 

*correction: my friend is an 'art director' at Victoria's Secret, not a 'director' as in the article. Thank you Thomas Woodruff, chair of BFA Illustration and Cartooning Department of SVA for recommending me for this interview, Lisa Batchelder, Publicist at SVA for organizing and overseeing the process, Bryan Derballa for great photos (+ recording our conversations), and good luck to very talented Jensine Eckwall, and hope you visit her site before you leave this page. The latest issue of JUXTAPOZ can be found at bookstores near you. (I had originally posted this to my website's news section. Since a lot of art students and  young artists are reading Drawger, I have decided to repost it here. )

Why I think day job is good for you. (for aspiring artists out there)

By |July 9th, 2013|Uncategorized|

I was buying a box of cereal. I said "hi" to the girl at the checkout counter, but she didn't even look up. She scanned the cereal box and throw it back at me without even saying how much the total was. I try to be nice at the checkout counters. I look them straight in their eyes and say "hi, how are you?", even when they look like they are not having a good day. Which is, well, most of the time.  Their attitude changes, they smile back, and we part by saying 'Thank you. Have a good day' to each other. The girl who threw the cereal box, though, she was taking her unhappiness out on me. I didn't even feel like wasting my time patiently smiling at her. So I took the change, mumbled thank you inside my mouth and left.  The good thing is  that I can forget this bad experience right when I step out of the store. On the other hand  she has to stay working unhappily all day long. 

One of the most common questions young artists, especially those who just graduated, ask me is: "did you have to take a day job when you were starting out?". I don't know exactly what they expect me to answer, and what is the intention of the question. However what I  know is that this is not a simple yes or no answer for me.  If you are asking about the time after finishing my MFA  in illustration, my answer is no.  But I also spent 11 years in corporate PR office job after I finished college before going back to art school much later in my life. So, the answer is yes if I count those 11 years as my day job. And I do. The fact is that it was during my day job I learned everything about how to work efficiently, how to organize, multi-task, how to make good phone calls or to negotiate terms either with clients or with bosses and coworkers.... you name it. (including, minor things like don't make phone calls before 10AM, don't e-mail important topics on weekends or Mondays, which I still follow till this day.) In short, it taught me everything about how to run my small business of illustration later on. When I went back to school as an art student at age over 30, I initially felt old and inferior to those bright 17 year olds in my classes. But soon realized that though I may have been old(er), I also had a lot of life experiences under my belt. Now, after finishing up exact same amount of time, exactly 11 years, of working as an illustrator, I often stop and think: would it have been even possible to be working as an illustrator for this long if I didn't have that day job first? The answer to this is very clear to me.

 I was a hopeless 21 year old, who had no life experiences or social skill but thought I was someone special, like any other (or should I say most of) 21 year old may think. I used to pick fights with bosses when I thought I was right. (though I still think I was right in those cases! LOL.) I now know exactly how to talk that boss into letting me do what I think is a good idea, among everything else. (After all, any business is about person to person relationships. ) Yes, I learned them all during my day job. Though I never loved that job, which ultimately made me decide to leave and pursue my childhood dream of being an artist, I don't regret the priceless experiences that later allowed me to jump start my 'second career'. If I have a time machine to go back, I won't change a thing. I believe day jobs are too underrated. Maybe you feel inferior to those who don't need to take that day job? Please don't ever be ashamed!  Trust me, there is a lot you can learn from any day job  as long as you try to make best of it, even when the situation is not ideal. The reality is, business of art is half art and half business. There are far fewer young artists who are completely ready to run their own one person business when they graduate than those who are not. Think of it as you are given a special opportunity to get yourself ready. When that day comes when you can finally let go of that day job, I guarantee you will be thankful for the experiences you have had. Besides, you will be So thankful for not have to work on day job anymore that you will focus and work even harder than if you didn't have to go through it. Trust my word. It's all going  to be good! (and let's start from smiling while you are on the job.) (PS: The last photo is a Google street view of the office building I worked for 11 years in Tokyo. Because I am just about to start the 12th year working on my second job, I thought it was a good time to talk about this now. Hope it would be helpful for some of you. Thank you. )

location drawing (virtually) on Google Map

By |July 2nd, 2013|Uncategorized|

I use Google Maps all the time. You do too, right? I just used it yesterday to find out where exactly was the West Village restaurant I was going. And, oh,  the closest subway stop. But it never occurred to me that I can use this to illustrate. This illustration is for the current Mother Jones magazine (July and August 2013). Story is about how we are pretending the next super storm won't arrive and believe our cities are going to be fine. They asked for an image of New York City in flood where people carrying on their everyday lives like they don't care. The key was to pick a location that looks undeniably New York City, with enough open space to fill with crowd. Times Square was being suggested for obvious reasons. But then again,  if you are a New Yorker, you know Times Square is for the tourists. You don't go there unless you need to. I ended up choosing 23rd Street where Broadway and 5th Avenue meet, right next to Madison Square Park. This is where you have a great view of Empire State Building, with two avenues going diagonally up north with lots of interesting looking buildings, a park to your right, and a big open space to draw bunch of people and some cars in. This is also where I have been getting off the subway to go to School of Visual Arts (SVA) for last 14 years, first as a student, then as an instructor after I finished my MFA. It was a natural choice.  (And may I mention my favorite restaurant in town, La Mar, is situated right near by?) I initially downloaded bunch of photos online. Then realized, you can't really get all the details from the online photo references. I don't know how I  ended up going to Google Map street view. But I did. Why didn't I do this before? You can virtually walk up and down the avenues, to see the details of some buildings you cannot see in the reference photos. You can look up, then look right and left. This is PERFECT. It saved me from going out in the miserable weather to sit on a street corner for hours and hours and possibly harassed by passers by, even laughed at for my wobbly drawing skill. More New York city scape assignments? Bring them on.

I didn’t mention about the characters in the image, but that was another fun part of this project. Williamsburg hipster dude listening music on his big headphone, hot girl (but a realistic one and not a movie star kind) talking on her phone, teenage couple, George from Seinfeld look alike… A girl with the dog is based on one of my students who had to give away her dog to the neighbor and feeling sad, so I decided to draw her with a dog happily taking a walk. And oh, the small girl in the center with backpack is me as a child.

Last but not least, thank you AD Carolyn Perot for a fun project. Mother Jones Magazines is in newsstand now with a fellow Drawger Tim O'Brien on the cover.

15 influences, that stick with you, FOREVER.

By |April 11th, 2013|Uncategorized|

This is a re-posting from my personal blog. I was initially not goint to post this here, but then again, thought it would be fun if we can find out "the 15" from other Drawgers. So, here it is... +++ I don't love getting asked about my artistic influences and inspirations. I had stopped answering the question all together some years ago. The biggest reasoning behind it was because I have lived long enough to the point things that have influenced me at some point in my life often have no relevance to who I am now, though, I may still see those early influences in my work. If I name all the influences, past and present, then my list would probably be as thick as a dictionary. However last week, comic artist and friend James Hodgkins posted something on Facebook that really got me. "The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen Artists who've influenced you and that will ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes." What I loved was  this: Artists who've influenced you and that will ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU. I really like the idea of narrowing down to the core of influences that will be there, forever. So, I followed his advise, took less than 15 minutes, and came up with the list. And thought I should share it with you. Because, well, I get this asked a lot, and I haven't answered. 1. Alexander Rodchenko He saw and show the world from a completely different viewpoint from people may often do. He has taught us that mundane can turn into extraordinary by creative points of view. Even after so many decades, he still teaches me, photographers and designers of today to see the world differently.  (No, that is NOT a Franz Ferdinando album cover.)

2. Wong Ka-Wai I first saw ChongKing Express right when I started learning Cantonese in the mid 90s. It was nothing like I have ever seen before. And probably pushed me to keep studying Cantonese for the following three years.  Wacky storyline, cinematography  that feels like you are drunk or dreaming (done by ultra talented Chris Doyle), and oh the colors! If you had not watched his films, you are missing out. (My favorite is Days of Being Wild)

3. Jean Paul Gaultier If I have to pick one fashion designer to wear his/her clothes for the rest of my life, Gaultier is probably not the one I will be choosing. But, if I pick one designer who I think has always been coming up with great concepts take risks, and trying to do something new, and being such an inspiration, then that one is DEFINITELY Gaultier. He is not just about Madonna's cone bra. (Thanks to eBay I have been slowly collecting his vintage clothes I couldn't afford in the 90s.)

4. Katsushika Hokusai I first encountered original Hokusais at a retrospective show at a small Isetan Department Store museum in Shinjuku. I was probably 16. They totally blew my mind away. And even till this day, they still do. In case you didn't know this already, he was the very first person to use the word MANGA.

5. Utagawa Kuniyoshi Hokusai's strength was 'everyday pictures' of people's lives in Edo Period and landscapes especially those depicting Mt. Fuji. Kuniyoshi on the other hand was known for his ultra masculine and powerful Musha-E (pictures of the heros / warriors). My love-affair with Kuniyoshi is fairly new, only about ten years or less. I had an assignment to draw a samurai for Rolling Stone Magazine, and I needed a good reference. I went to buy a book, then I got completely hooked. I don't know how many times I have used that book since.

6. Stenberg Brothers Russian illustrator/graphic designer duo from 1920s to 30s who were known for their striking movie posters. I don't know how many times I channeled their design, color, and compositions to come up with a graphic solution. Whenever I have to juxtapose multiple images in one picture, channeling the brothers always work.

7. John Woo Even if the only movie he has ever made was è‹±é›„本色 (A Better Tomorrow) he is still on my list. Thank you John Woo.

8. Haruki Murakami I am not sure non-Japanese readers of his books know this fact, but his books became popular in Japan initially for sort of odd (in a good way) writing style that reminded us of translated foreign fiction. It was nothing like we had known. And he remains the same. I had always believed there is no space for magic left in Tokyo, because it is such a logical place. Then he deceived me with Hard-boild Wonderland and the End of the World. He has been deceiving the readers throughout the years (in a good way). And, oh, these beautiful American edition covers by John Gall! (And, I am still dreaming of one day vacationing in that unknown island in Sputnik Sweetheart)

9. Yukio Mishima This is my very personal opinion, but if you allow me to say, he is one of the last of the truly Japanese Japanese writer. It is hard to believe he ran through his life so fast, so prolific, and gone so quickly. He wrote this amazingly detailed psychology of an old man at the end of his life,  when he was in his 20s (Forbidden Colors). Psychology so real it is hard to believe he was so young.  (I love everything about his books, but NOT his political viewpoint.) And, thank you John Gall for hiring me to do one of his book covers. It was the best present. (book not yet published)

10. Björk Need I say more??

11. Matthew Barney (specifically Cremaster Cycle) I was a Sci-Fi and fantasy geek growing up. Then I grew out of it. Then I met Cremaster Cycle. It was cooler than any fantasy I have ever seen, read, and drooled.

12. Jean Cocteau He was the true Renaissance Man.  He made movies, he wrote books, he drew and painted, and even one of the most popular rings from the high-end jeweler Cartier was designed by him. He was truly the original. (OK, I have to confess I haven't seen many of his movies. I got into his artwork by his paintings, drawings and books.)

13.  Paula Scher Ms. Scher, I am not a stalker, and I am not a lesbian either (and neither are you), but I once said to a friend I want to marry you. I love your design, but I love your brain even more. Thank you for putting Make It Bigger out in this world.

14. Miyata Masayuki Also when I was about 16, I fell in love with the paper-cut art by Miyata Masayuki. He had a new image every day in Asahi Shinbun, a major national paper of Japan to accompany a daily novel Eight Dogs Tale written by Futaro Yamada. I used to cut out the images and collect them. While most of the early influences look very faded and juvenile looked through the eyes of an adult self, his works still look fresh and striking. So, I needed him on the list.

15. Pierre Cardin I am the child of the 'space age', and every so often, I get reminded that my earliest childhood memories (Apollo 11 moon landing, etc) still affect who I am, what I am attracted to, and my visual aesthetics subconsciously  Cardin for me represent that time period, with his space age designs from late 60s to early-early 70s.   

What's your 15?

free event at Apple Store NY

By |February 27th, 2013|Uncategorized|

  This announcement is mainly for students and young illustrators. Come hang with me at my talk at Apple Store on 14th Street, Meat Packing District, New York, tomorrow night,  Wednesday February 27th (7-8PM). The event is fre...

PBS The Art of Illustration

By |February 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|

This may be a worthwhile 7 minutes for aspiring illustrators and comic artists, or those just who are curious about them.  I don't like to be video-ed, especially that I don't have a good enough confidence on my terrible Japanese accent, and hard to face tha truth(!) But, it is for PBS, part of a great series in a great theme, and that Tomer was originally contacted but he couldn't so he forwarded my info to them. How can I say no, right? Featuring: Steven Guarnaccia,Sean Murphy, Molly Crabapple.

Happy Valentine’s Day

By |February 14th, 2013|Uncategorized|

This is a full page editorial illustration that ended up not getting printed. These things happen. It was for a February issue in theme of Love/Lust.  I had a lot of fun making this image, so I thought I should share this with you here.  Happy Valentine's Day!