Yuko Shimizu (illustrator)

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Yuko Shimizu
EducationSchool of Visual Arts, New York City
Known forIllustration, Comic Books

Yuko Shimizu (清水裕子) is a Japanese illustrator based in New York City whose work combines Japanese heritage with contemporary reference points.[1] Works by Shimizu address a range of serious issues including sex, race, and cultural identity, but also can be light and whimsical.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Shimizu was born in Tokyo, Japan, and grew up primarily in Kanagawa Prefecture. At the age of eleven, her father's company moved the family to the United States[3] where they settled in Westchester County, New York and would live there for four years before returning to Japan.[4][2] According to Shimizu, attending middle school in the US encouraged a sense of individuality in her that she would take back to Japan and that was not customary for women in the Japanese culture of the time.[3]

Having a great appreciation for Japanese comics, Shumizu imagined becoming a manga artist as a young girl. However, when it came time for university, her parents dissuaded her from following an art education and she attended Waseda University in Tokyo with a major in Faculty of Commerce.[1] She graduated in 1988 as valedictorian.[5] Her first job was in the PR department of a large Japanese corporation, headquartered in Tokyo.[6]

Second education[edit]

After many years of working in PR Shimizu realized that women in the firm who had been there for multiple decades were not advancing and decided to pursue an MFA in illustration in the United States. As a non-U.S. resident she needed to prove she had enough money for four years of tuition and living expenses, and saved for two years in order to have enough money to apply. After eleven years with the PR firm and enough money in the bank to obtain a visa, Shimizu traveled to New York and interviewed at Pratt, Parsons and the School of Visual Arts.[3]

She moved to New York City with two suitcases. In 1999 she enrolled in the School of Visual Arts.[2] After finishing her sophomore year, she was accepted into the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program. Under Marshall Arisman she created a personal alphabet book project called Letters of Desire as part of her graduate studies.[7] Shimizu's roommate when she began graduate studies was James Jean, who would illustrate 81 covers for Fables.[8] She graduated in May 2003 with a Masters in Illustration.[9]

Upon completion of her MFA, Shimizu moved into a Manhattan studio with two other friends, John Hendrix and Katie Yamasaki, both of whom she had met in grad school. The three artists wanted a studio that would be easily accessible to magazine and newspaper publishers.[2]

Illustration career[edit]

Shimizu began illustrating professionally in 2003 soon after she completed her master's degree. Her first client was The Village Voice, with art director Minh Uong.[10] She would soon add The New York Times, The New Yorker and the Financial Times to her list of patrons.

Between 2007 and 2010, Shimizu illustrated 33 CD insert covers for Now Hear This, which was a recommended music listening list published by the UK magazine The World. Covers in this series always depicted a woman and a music theme.[11]

In 2009, Shimizu was named among the 100 Japanese people the world respect by Newsweek Japan.[6]

Between 2009 and 2015 Shimizu created over 70 covers for the DC Comic Series The Unwritten.[2] In her first cover for the series, Shimizu displayed many of the stylistic trademarks that would later brand her as an innovator in the field of illustration by setting the mood of the big picture of the story.[8] Her 43rd cover would win her a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators.[12]

Shimizu has illustrated for clients, such as Library of Congress, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, MTV, Target, National Public Radio, Time, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, GQ, and many more.[13]

In 2018, Shimizu would win the Hamilton King Award,[14] considered by many to be the most prestigious award in illustration.[15]

Noted works[edit]

Charitable works[edit]

The Gap Product Red In 2009, Shimizu collaborated with The Gap's AIDS charity line Product RED to create five limited-edition T-shirts (two for men, three for women) for the North American market.[5]

Robin Hood Foundation L!brary Initiative Under the auspices of the Robin Hood Foundation and Pentagram's charitable L!brary Initiative, Shimizu collaborated with graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister on an 11-panel mural for P.S. 96 in the Bronx. The project was showcased in the New York Times[16] and in the commemorative book L!brary (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).



After graduation from SVA, BFA Cartooning and BFA Illustration Chair, Thomas Woodruff asked Shimizu to teach the summer classes in the BFA Illustration and Cartooning Department Pre-College program and she did so between 2003 and 2004 .[9] Shimizu has continued as an educator, teaching in the BFA Illustration program at SVA since 2014.[13] Shimizu also travels to teach at workshops[30] as well as teaching inking techniques and drawing online through Skillshare.[31]

Working process[edit]

Shimizu begins with a loose sketch, which is then enlarged to the size she wishes to draw the finish work at and then this is loosely transferred to watercolor paper using a light box and an HB pencil. She believes the HB is not too hard a graphite to leave marks on the paper and is a soft enough to easily erase. She often cuts the watercolor paper, then spends hours, and sometimes days drawing with a Japanese brush that is specifically designed to write sutra as part of Buddhist practice. Using the loose sketch as a starting point, Shimizu tries to imagine and execute the details of the work as they are inked to make the final drawing process fluid. The finished drawing is then scanned and digitally colored in Photoshop. Color proofs are created to ensure consistency and to check details.[32][33] When in art school, her professor Thomas Woodruff told the class it can look inappropriate when an illustrator includes a signature on commissioned work, and her work remains unsigned because of this influence. If someone purchases an original work from Shimizu, it is signed on the back.[10] Shimizu does all preliminary work on archival thick photo-copy paper, and stores these in a clear pocket for each project, which are organized in order. These are stored on a bookshelf which holds all sketches from every project Shimizu has created.[10]



Personal life[edit]

Shimizu maintains the studio she rented and shared with other students after graduation from SVA, but now works out of that Manhattan location alone. Shimizu's parents live in Tokyo and she has an older sister in New York who is in banking/accounting.[2] She enjoys cooking, brings meals to work with her each day,[10] and maintains a strict separation between her work and home life. [58]


  1. ^ a b Gosling, Emily (2017-07-04). "Illustrator Yuko Shimizu on starting a creative career in your 30s". Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Newman, Robert (2015-06-04). "Illustrator Profile - Yuko Shimizu". American Illustration.
  3. ^ a b c Bedrossian, Rebecca (3 May 2008). "Yuko Shimizu". Communication Arts. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  4. ^ Neo, Mr Geo (2016-11-17). "Editorial Yuko Shimizu". Illustrators Lounge.
  5. ^ a b Smiser, Kathy (2015-09-28). "Artist Spotlight: Yuko Shimizu, Illustrator". Pennsylvania College of Arts and Design.
  6. ^ a b Benton, Dave (30 July 2014). "Yuko Shimizu: Make Your Own Path". Adobe. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  7. ^ "X (knitting)". Communication Arts. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  8. ^ a b "YUKO SHIMIZU talks about designing the cover of THE UNWRITTEN". Vertigo. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  9. ^ a b Drew, Emma (2016-12-16). "Dive Into Illustrator Yuko Shimizu's New NYC Subway Posters".
  10. ^ a b c d Di Lieto, Darren (2014-11-14). "An LCS interview with Yuko Shimizu". Little Chimp Society.
  11. ^ Newman, Robert (2015-06-05). "Now Hear This".
  12. ^ a b c Khouri, Andy (2012-11-08). "The Unwritten Cover-artist Yuko Shimizu Wins Society of Illustrators Medals".
  13. ^ a b "faculty: Yuko Shimizu". School of Visual Arts. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  14. ^ a b c "2018 Hamilton King Award". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  15. ^ Gallo, Irene (2010-01-29). "The Hamilton King Award". TOR.
  16. ^ Kennedy, Randy (2009-03-13). "A Is for Artwork That Lures Bronx Children to New Libraries". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  17. ^ "The Cat Man of Aleppo". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  18. ^ "Japanese Tales". The Folio Society. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  19. ^ "A Crack in the Sea". Publishers Weekly. 2016-12-12. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  20. ^ Senior, Jennifer (2015-10-08). "A Wild Swan". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Barbed Wire Baseball. Abrams Books. 9 April 2013. ISBN 9781419705212. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  22. ^ Dawood, Sarah (2016-04-07). "Living with Yuko Shimizu". Design Week.
  23. ^ "Illustration where traditional Japanese prints meet surreal comic art". Gestalten. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
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  26. ^ Popova, Maria (6 February 2014). "Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far: Sagmeister's Typographic Maxims on Life, Updated". Brain Pickings. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  27. ^ "How to be an Illustrator". Heart Agency. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  28. ^ "Illustration A Visual History". Abrhams Publishing. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  29. ^ "Illustration Now". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  30. ^ Smith, Hannah. "Meet Artist Yuko Shimizu". Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  31. ^ "Yuko Shimizu Profile". Skillshare. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  32. ^ Carter, Dom (2017-10-11). "Inktober tips from acclaimed illustrator Yuko Shimizu".
  33. ^ "Yuko Shimizu in "Blow Up" at the Society of Illustrators". Bernstein & Andriulli. 2010-09-01.
  34. ^ "Hanami: Beyond the Bloom". Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  35. ^ "Go West!". Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  36. ^ "Facing Humanity". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  37. ^ "Celebrate Women Artists in Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Society of Illustrators!". Tor. 2016-05-27.
  38. ^ "Little Nemo: Dream another Dream". Ohio State University. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  39. ^ "Prometheus Eternal". Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  40. ^ Blum, Sam (2015-06-05). "Go See Subway Art in Gallery Form at the Society of Illustrators". Brooklyn Magazine.
  41. ^ "Yuko Shimizu in "Blow Up" at the Society of Illustrators". 2010-09-01.
  42. ^ "Caldecott Medal 2021". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  43. ^ "Illustrators 63: Book & Editorial". Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  44. ^ "Illustrators 63, Part 1". Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  45. ^ "Middle East Outreach Council 2020 Award Winners". Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  46. ^ "2020 Hugo Awards". 7 April 2020. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  47. ^ "Illustrators 61 Award Winners". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  48. ^ Gartenberg, Chaim (2019-08-19). "Women swept the Hugo Awards — again".
  49. ^ "Barbed Wire Baseball". 2017-02-01.
  50. ^ "Winner 2014 Award". Simon Wiesenthal Center. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  51. ^ "Illustrators 58 Book and Editorial". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  52. ^ "Spectrum 22". Spectrum. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  53. ^ "Images 34 Winners". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  54. ^ "Illustrators 52 Award Winners". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  55. ^ Gallo, Irene (2009-03-03). "Spectrum 16 winners announced". Tor.
  56. ^ "Award-winning illustrator Yuko Shimizu". DNA. Retrieved 2018-07-06.
  57. ^ "ADC Awards 2006". Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  58. ^ "Work inspiration with Yuko Shimizu". 12 May 2015. Retrieved 2018-07-21.

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