Yuko Shimizu (illustrator)
|Education||School of Visual Arts, New York City|
|Known for||Illustration, 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. Works by Shimizu address a range of serious issues including sex, race, and cultural identity, but also can be light and whimsical.
Early life and education
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 where they settled in Westchester County, New York and would live there for four years before returning to Japan. 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.
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. She graduated in 1988 as valedictorian.
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.
She moved to New York City with two suitcases. In 1999 she enrolled in the School of Visual Arts. 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. Shimizu's roommate when she began graduate studies was James Jean, who would illustrate 81 covers for Fables. She graduated in May 2003 with a Masters in Illustration.
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.
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. 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.
Between 2009 and 2015 Shimizu created over 70 covers for the DC Comic Series The Unwritten. 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. Her 43rd cover would win her a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators.
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.
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 and in the commemorative book L!brary (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).
Author and illustrator
Including work by Shimizu
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 . Shimizu has continued as an educator, teaching in the BFA Illustration program at SVA since 2014. Shimizu also travels to teach at workshops as well as teaching inking techniques and drawing online through Skillshare.
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. 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. Shumizu 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.
- Go West! exhibition of American Illustration, 2018, Designforum Wien, Museumsplatz, Austria, curated by Peter Diamond
- Facing Humanity, Northwestern University, 2018, curated by Scott Bakal
- Point of Vision: Celebrating Women Artists in Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2016, Museum of American Illustration, curated by Irene Gallo and Lauren Panepinto
- Little Nemo: Dream another Dream, Ohio State University, 2016
- Prometheus Eternal, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2015
- New York View: MTA Arts and Design Illustrates the City, 2015, Museum of American Illustration
- Blow Up, 2010, Museum of American Illustration
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. She enjoys cooking, brings meals to work with her each day, and maintains a strict separation between her work and home life. 
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- "Facing Humanity". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
- "Celebrate Women Artists in Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Society of Illustrators!". Tor. 2016-05-27.
- "Little Nemo: Dream another Dream". Ohio State University. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
- "Prometheus Eternal". Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
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- "Barbed Wire Baseball". 2017-02-01.
- "Winner 2014 Award". Simon Wiesenthal Center. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
- "Illustrators 58 Book and Editorial". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
- "Spectrum 22". Spectrum. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
- "Images 34 Winners". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
- "Illustrators 52 Award Winners". Retrieved 2020-08-25.
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