Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimizu

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

“Life” According To Keith Richards

People often ask me: “what was your very favorite assignment?”. Now, this one is hard to answer. Every assignment (or at least, most of assignments) is fun in different ways. Sometimes because I love working with that AD, another times because the client let me do whatever I want, or article is interesting, good fee, etc, etc. But I have to admit, every once in a while, there comes a project that I tell my self “Yes! I have been working as an illustrator to get this assignment!”.

And, this was one of them.

Rolling Stones came to Japan for the first time, yes, for the first time, in 1989, for Steel Wheels world tour. Japan is known for their strict drug law, therefore, Rolling Stones was banned from entering Japan, for precaution, until then. Did you know that Paul McCartney ended up in Tokyo jail for possession of small amount of marijuana in the early 80s? Paul was allowed back in first time since his arrest on the same year, if I remember correctly.

All the ultra-expensive Rolling Stones tickets got sold out in like 30 minutes. I was so sad, I ended up begging the president of an ad agency I worked with (I was working in a PR department of a big corporation  back then) to get the tickets. And then, the first Rolling Stones concert… I was in heaven.

Nicholas Blechman, AD of New York Times Book Review, somehow must have sensed that I am a Rolling Stones fan. I don’t know how. But he also knew I am a Keith Richards kind of a girl. (I am, with little skulls here and there…) He said: “I thought you would enjoy drawing all the lines in his face”. I did, Nicholas, I did. Thank you.

Keith’s autobiography “Life” is now in bookstores near you. Oh I should get a copy too!

As you may be able to tell…, it initially came as a cover gig. Unfortunately my illustration defeated against a photo of younger hotter Keith. But it is OK, ok. Four ideas were submitted. they went for the most simple idea.

Approved sketch is blown up to the size I want to draw, traced into a watercolor paper. Then I use reference photos to get the likeness right in pencil.

Ink drawing in progress. He looks much older in this one, because all the lines in his face are solid. In coloring stage, lines are lightened to various tones.

Nicholas said he has seen many Keith illos in many magazines but a lot of them are not flattering portrait of him. As fans of Keith, we decided the direction is “let’s draw him in a way if he sees it it is a flattering portrait of him”. I hope I did that right…

On the page of NY Times Book Review, from the last weekend.