Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimizu

Award winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City and instructor at School of Visual Arts.

art doesn’t save people’s lives (but it can do other things instead)

This is a portrait of a young man I created back in 2006 for a Christian magazine. This young man, who loved mountains and nature, unfortunately lost his life too early to drugs.
When I initially created this image, the father of this man contacted me because he liked the image, and I sent him an enlarged color print to put up on his home wall.

While my assistant and I were organizing flat file a few months ago, among a big pile of old work, I found the original b/w drawing. I thought of the father, but I couldn’t find his contact. Then last week, he e-mailed me out of the blue, because he wanted to show me a photo of the print up a wall in his new house. He said he made sure to hang the print so it is the first thing people see when entering the house. Thus I got his home address to FedEx him the drawing where it should belong.
This morning I got the most touching thank you message in my inbox. It really made my day.

I believe in power of art, and importance of it. At the same time, I always think of art as, “yeah, but it doesn’t save anyone’s lives” .
It doesn’t, but art does certainly make our lives richer. At least, it’s good to know that it does.

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

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. )

(on accidentally discovering) Google Map as a virtual location drawing tool

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.
"yuko shimizu" "new york' "flood" "mother jones"


Initially I downloaded these photos of the location from various websites. I had noticed that though they are good photos, I cannot see enough of cityscape details to draw from.

Then, here is Google Map Street View. I can walk up and down the avenues virtually.
 I really liked this pink building on the right, so I walked around it virtually to get the details and understand the structure.


This is a rare cross streets where two avenues and a street meet all at once. So, I walk up and down the other avenue to understand the buildings surrounding it.


Having all the windows open on my screen, I get to work. I virtually walk around as I draw, according to which part I am drawing.


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 this fun project. Mother Jones July/August issue is in newsstands now.

15 influences that stick with you, FOREVER.

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 英雄本色 (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?

Climate Change and the City

One of the best things about illustrating for magazines is that I learn new things every day by reading articles I illustrate.
I guess I can say I am climate-change-conscious,  seeing my home country of Japan having gone through dramatic temperature change since the mid-late 1980s. (I am not a specialist, but my guess is because it is an island country with many warm and cold sea currents meeting there, the country is especially prone to climate changes. You can ask me about it next time I see you if you are interested in discussing about this more. ) Also recent Sandy hitting NY, my current city of residence, really hard.
But still, reading an extensive article about the next generation of city planning through Green Source Magazine was an eye opening moment.
And, drawing a dynamic opener spread for this was such a fun assignment. Especially that I love drawing sea and waves (I have in past mentioned that I have severe hydrophobia), it was so much fun.

"green source" "climate change" "global warming" "Yuko Shimizu"

These are three ideas I initially submitted. Honestly, I could have gone with any one of them. Different types of water I can get absolved into drawing…

Then, AD Heather Haggerty and I went into minor details to change, based on the rough layout she made. Make sure the orb is not touching the gutter, so make it a lot smaller. waves can be bigger as long as it won’t cover the general type area… I like when ADs are upfront about their needs.

Then, going into drawing…. I have  decided this illustration should be about drawing of menacing waves, so most of my time should be spent on actual drawing, with relatively simple coloring process on Photoshop. In the second photo, you can see I marked the gutter area with pencil, so I make sure nothing important sits around that area in final drawing.

This is a screen shot of some of the reference materials I picked up here and there from different sites. It is not about copying one photo, or two photos. It is all about understand the structures and  forms of the subject I am illustrating. So I usually try to look at as many different materials as possible.

Photoshop coloring process was realatively simple for this project. (I normally have gozillion layers. All the layers fit in this screen shot, so that explains how simple this was. )
On average time divided between drawing and photoshop is 50:50. In this specific project, it was more like  70:30. When drawing is more detailed, I keep coloring simple. When drawing is simple, I end up spending more time coloring. I personally prefer spending more time on drawing than coloring. Drawing is all the fun of my process, coloring is just work. It varies from an artist to artist. Some of my peers enjoy being on the computer much more than going through traditional process. There is no right or wrong, whatever works works.

One of the things that happened with this specific job was to color adjust according to the paper it get printed on. The original finish, which I liked, was too dull to be printed on a recycled paper. So, two stages of minor color adjustments were made. The last one is the final printed image, but in actuality, because of how ink sinks into the paper, the middle one is how it looks on the page. This is something I have to learn and adjust according to each surface. On a slick and glossy paper, the last one may be too bright.

"green source" "climate change" "global warming" "Yuko Shimizu"

This is the final layout.

… and in the magazine context. Really good magazine. Cool cover too.
Thank you Francesca Messina and Heather Haggerty for this project.

Sketchtravel poster creative process step by step.

You may, or may not know about Sketchtravel. But, let me tell you that this is quite an amazing project that started relatively small, as something fun, and ended up becoming something of a monster-size charity project.

In 2006, project was conceived and organized by Dice Tsutsumi and Gerald Guelai as a fun small project, let’s pass a sketch book around from illustrators to illustratos, around the world and fill the book cover to cover. It took 4 and half years till the book was complete, contributing artists including: Hayao MiyazakiJames Jean, Peter DeSève, Taiyo MatsumotoTomer HanukaMike MignolaKatsuya TeradaNatalie Ascencios to name a few.  Resulting in publishing of the book in multiple language editions and becoming a bestseller in France and Japan, traveling exhibitions, and most importantly, auctioning off the original book  and raised 70,000Euros to fund Room To Read to build libraries in five countries so far

Traveling exhibition is arriving to Kyoto International Manga Museum in Kyoto, Japan in March.
As a contributor to Sketchtravel, I was honored to be asked to create poster for Kyoto exhibit. I took detailed record of creative process, so I am sharing them with you today. I often get asked about drawing medium and surface. For details of medium, please visit FAQ section.

"yuko Shimizu" "sketch travel" "poster"this is the finished poster. Let’s look at the creative process from the beginning….

"yuko shimizu" "sketchtravel"
everything starts kind of like this…. lots of doodles and thumbnails.
Concept started off as drawing a “Maiko” or two. Maiko is a younger version of Geiko (what westerners know as geisha). Both Maikos and Geikos are close to extinct in this 21st century Japan, but in old capital of Kyoto, the culture still exist.


So, this was my initial idea. Dice and I discussed and decided to go with a more contemporary take on Maiko culture. He said he wanted to see more of my “edge”. I was a bit weary at first… but said OK, I will do it.


Second idea. More with edge and tradition mixed with contemporary.  Japanese umbrella she is holding makes the shape of Japanese flag: red dot. Cherry flowers, of course, are the symbol of spring. Luckily, the show starts in spring, right around the famous Japanese Cherry Flower season.
This is a typical preparatin stage before moving onto actual inking stage. Add gutter space (in grey) and blow up the sketch to the size I am drawing. For a poster use, I usually go 22″ x 30″. Obviously, it takes multiple print outs from my Epson printer and lots of cutting and taping…

Lightbox saves your time (therefore your life). You can see the traced pencil linse on watercolor paper. this is about the tightest I normally trace. No tracing takes longer than a few minutes. It is more about transferring the sketch composition onto the paper. No more no less. It is my trick to ink fresh lines and not making it look like traced.
Some things cannot use shortcuts. So, I take good old compass to draw out the perfect circle for the umbrella.

Finish figure first, then the rest follows. Face ended up changing a lot from the sketch, but that’s part of the process. Only time I do tight face sketch is when I am doing a portrait.


I initially thought I would finish the drawing much faster, then ended up taking longer, because of large scale, and because of detailed cherry flower drawings.


Yaaay, getting very close to finishing up the drawing.  The book on the side was the book I referred to to draw various different types of cherries. Top was very close up, bottom was far away, and petals were drawn on separate paper.
Also, bunch of photos of real Maikos from kyoto, their hair style and accessories were downloaded from the web, as well as the famous five story pagoda, a symbol of Kyoto.


FINITO! (there is a bit of time-consuming process of getting the texture and tone on the finished drawing, which I ask to keep it as ‘secret ingredient’) This gets scanned in tediously in parts.  Yes, I do have a large format scanner (Epson Expression 10000XL), but it still takes at least four scans to get everything onto the computer. At least, Photoshop Auto-merge feature works like a dream and saves a lot of time.


Adobe Photoshop CS5.5. I should switch to Ps6…. Wacom Intuos 3 tablet (which died since, and now I am on super shiny Intuos 5).  Every coloring process is different, and this is one of the reasons why it is very hard for me to hire a coloring assistant. But most of the coloring starts something like this…


Getting there, but still not many layers. I know, I am a huge fan of masks. It is all about masking and masking and masking stuff….


This is my workspace… I have a large Apple Cinema Display (old one, died once and paid a lot of money to fix) next to the laptop. I don’t own a desktop computer and I never will. (and that keyboard died since then. Now I have a cute code-less.)


Cherry petals are inserted, and the number of layers are doubled. I think I call it done!

Once again, below is the final result, and there is a copy of the backside of the flyer on the bottom, for those of you who are in Japan who are interested in going to the exhibition.
I won’t be able to make it to the show, but I am sure it will be super, so enjoy!
"yuko Shimizu" "sketch travel" "poster"

illustration and fear of water

I believe many of you who are reading my blog are aspiring illustrators. If you are, here is something you may want to remember, or to work on, if your art school instructors haven’t taught you already: we have to be remembered by something we are good at, so when a prospect client see a topic that need to be illustrated they know who to call.

Most obvious ones prospect clients think of my work are Japanese and/or Chinese themes. I am a Japanese, but I had also studied Cantonese for three years and I have strong interest toward Chinese culture. And people somehow see that in my work. There are other themes like sexy girls, action and sports, comic book look, snow….
And odd one is, which is today’s topic, water and underwater theme.

"yuko shimizu" "swimming" "water" "scrubs"

The illustration here is a project published recently in Scrubs, a magazine for nurses. The article was called Swimming in Fear, about a nurse’s fear of breathlessness in water compared to the pressure of being a nurse. When AD Maxine Davidowitz called me she said it was a perfect assignment for me. Indeed.

Why do I draw a lot of water in my work? The big secret (or not?) is: I have a severe hydrophobia. I can’t swim, and I know I will never learn how to swim.
Water theme that keeps coming back to my works are almost my secret fantasy. One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Blue. It is my ultimate dream to  swim like a fish. (I also have fear of fish, by the way!)

Some process pics here…

1) starting out with lots of idea thumbnails…

2) reference materials…

3) sketches

4) discussion with the AD, and minor adjustment to the sketch

5) let’s draw! 

6) go through Photoshop coloring process, and then…. finish! (as you can see, not as many layers for this particular illustration, but lots of layer masks!)
"yuko shimizu" "swimming" "water" "scrubs"

7) how they look on the pages

 

And…. here are just some examples of how water has been dominating my work (and life!).
PLansponsor: Bells and WhistlesPLANSPONSOR Magazine

Storage magazine Data Security
STORAGE Magazine

The Walrus coverTHE WALRUS Magazine cover

"yuko shimizu" "playboy"PLAYBOY Magazine

The Unwritten #19THE UNWRITTEN issue #19 cover

GQ Japan
GQ

Money Magazine money and fearMONEY Magazine

It’s here! It’s here! (it feels like Christmas already)

It feels like Christmas already! This came to my door yesterday. The first bound sample copy of my kids book Barbed Wire Baseball (written by Marissa Moss, published by Abrams, scheduled to publish spring 2013).

I have heard from peers who have already done it  that working on a kids book is a lot of blood, sweat and tears. OK, maybe not blood, but definitely the latter two were true. Actually to be precise, last fall when I was in midst of working on the interior pages, I lost hearing in one of my ears, probably from fatigue and stress. I had to run to an ER, then thoroughly get my hearing tested at a hospital.  So, blood part was not that far off either. (Thank you my BFF Gary Taxali for giving me a call to ease me when I was in pain)

But, finally finally finally, I am holding the book in my hand. And it is beautiful! Thank you AD Chad Beckerman for paying such great care even down to very small details in design. Thank you Dadu Shin and Victo Ngai for helping me with coloring process. And thank you American Illustration for including four spreads into their recent annual.
Book is ready for pre-order now.

"yuko shimizu" "barbed wire baseball"me, happy with the newly received book

dust covers were inspired by old baseball covers. John Gall‘s Sayonara Home Run! was referenced heavily, and now John works for Abrams. Nice coincidence.

when the dust cover is off, a different cover design appears

the front end paper is just sky and fence, but the back end paper has one more element, to go along with the story. you will see the other one at the end.

this spread was a bxxch to work on. I cannot thank Victo enough for helping me separate colors on this cray spread.

so, here is the other end paper. See the difference?

And, here are some process photos I took over the course of the project (photos sans blood, sweat or tears.)

Warsaw – New York, two events back to back.

It feels as is October just came and went! There were two very exciting events I took part in, back to back.

In mid October, I flew out to Warsaw, Poland to be a guest at speaker series at  Museum of Modern Art‘s 4th annual  Warsaw Under Construction (Warszawa W Budowie) Festival. This is a popular event that focuses loosely on architecture, and this year’s theme was “pros and cons of outdoor advertising”. The museum organizes workshops and lectures almost every day, and my job was to talk about outdoor advertising from an illustrator’s point of view as well as from the point of view of someone who live and work in New York, one of the advertising centers of the world.


I decided to candidly talk about artist-client relationships, including some examples of ‘horror stories’. (audience seemed to love the horror stories!)
Also, three hour workshop on the them of ‘good ideas make good illustration” followed, where small number of graphic designers and illustrators just had fun coming up with humorous concepts. We worked a lot, and we laughed a lot despite short period of time.
Both lecture and workshop was moderated by fellow illustrator and longtime friend Agata Nowicka. Thank you Agata and thank you Warsaw MoMA!

And, 9 hour flight back to New York, there was a Society of Publication Designers organized  student career event at Type Directors Club (conveniently located a block away from my studio) called Ask The Pros Live! waiting for me.
Five magazine art directors and designers (Jamie Bartolacci, David Curcurito, Dennis Huynh, Jen Sharpe, Elliot Stokes)and I answered questions from aspiring magazine designers and illustrators. With bottles of beer provided by David, we had a blast, and I learned a lot as well.

I know many of you who are reading this are students (and some instructors). I highly recommend you to follow SPD’s Student Outreach Program. So much info and great events for those who seek career in editorial world.

how the hell I finished the most complicated illustration ever.

FastCompany is one of my favorite magazines. Once I said that to an illustrator friend, he looked very surprised and asked me why I like reading a business magazine.
Maybe it has something to do with my corporate background (I was in corporate PR for 11 years before I went back to art school). Maybe it is something to do with that I constantly think of myself, a freelance illustrator, as a small business, not more so, but as well as being an ‘artist’.

When FastCompany called me for a double page opener, I got really excited. Then I took subway down to their beautiful office in World Trade Center overlooking WTC Memorial for a meeting, and soon realized what I got myself into! It turned out to be, as far as I can remember every editorial job I have done in past ten years, the most complicated piece I would ever end up working on.
I will show you the result first.

The story was about Coursera, an innovative online higher learning which may change the way we think of college education. They wanted a space filled with different students from all over the world listening to a professor talk. Oh boy, what did I get myself into??? But for my favorite magazine, I should just try to do the impossible!

Initial sketch after the meeting. ‘it’s good, but we want more people fitting into the spread’. Oh boy.

So, here is the revised sketch. We decided to slightly distort the perspective, so students are smaller as they go farther away from the professor.
Sketch get approved! Now what? Non stop drawing for days and days.

Here is me drawing. Non stop for days. I have downloaded some college student photos, but I soon ran out of characters, and started filling this out thinking of some of my personality-filled friends and acquaintances.

I cannot thank my studio-neighbor Jungyeon Roh enough. I finished the drawing on Friday, then I had to take off to speak at Illustration Conference ICON7 in Rhode Island. While I was traveling, she helped me as coloring assistant. This was what I asked Jungyeon to do. fill in the basic colors, so I can tweak and fix when I came back on Monday morning.

Here are some details of finish. Every single student here is different. Because I ran out of ideas, I sneak in some people I know, like the red-head beard guy is my current studio-mate Jacob Thomas, and I am the one on the right hand corner with bangs with red polka-dot dress…

And some Jewish men from neighborhood, as well as my friend Sara Varon’s former Olympian boxer husband in du-rag, aged Harry Potter, single mom and maybe even Stefan Bucher makes the cameo.

I cannot believe I finished this! And this is how it looks in the magazine. (They flipped it the other way) What’s cool is I subscribe to the iPad version.

To be honest, I am not sure where I had the energy and stamina to start and finish this on time. But, isn’t it also what I love about my job?: accomplishing something unknown, scary, and not sure if you are able to do it. Then you just do it, and the satisfaction you get from getting it done!

Last but not least, big thank you to Creative Director Florian Bachleda (who has been extremely nice and supportive since I was just starting out) and Art Director Alice Alves. Thank you for challenging me with creativity.
And here is a little extra: the view from Fast Company office! Oh wow.