Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimizu

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

thank you all. 2013, year in review.

2013 is quickly coming to the end. And I want to thank you all, friends, family, clients and those of you who support my work though I may not know you in person or even live in the same country. A few years ago, I started seriously thinking about who I want to be as an artist and to keep growing.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had to come out of my comfort zone and to branch out and try out things that I have not done before. I feel very fortunate I was able to work on projects I could not have imagined on working a year before. None of them were easy, to be absolutely honest. But because they were not easy, there was this feeling of accomplishment I get whenever I was done with each project.  I am not athletic, but it is probably how those mountain climbers feel when they reach the peak. photo by Giorgio Arcelli

I proved to myself I can draw for kids too:
I have mostly created images for grown ups for last ten years, and I understand some publishers were scared of me (?) because I am quite aware some of my works can look risqué. Nobody offered me to do kids books till I got contacted by Chad Beckerman of Abrams. Chad wasn’t scared of my work. My first kids book Barbed Wire Baseball came out in April.
It was one of the hardest projects I have ever taken on for sure. I am used to making one image per project, then move on. For this book I worked on and off for about a year and half. During the busiest time before the deadline, I suddenly lost my hearing from stress, and had to run to ER because it was a long weekend and my doctor was not around.  Luckily, I was OK, and now I have the contacts for some of the best ear doctors in New York along with a book that bare my name.
SEE THIS PROJECT HERE"yuko shimizu" "barbed wire baseball"

designed something that got painted on an 80 foot wall:
To push you to the next level, the best you can hope for is to have someone who you trust and respect who pushes you harder than you would normally do by yourself. Makes sense? Everyone who has ever worked with or studied under Stefan Sagmeister all say he is an amazing collaborator / art director who pushes you to where you have not gone before. It is always extremely exciting, and scary as hell at the same time. I had worked with Stefan twice before (and the second project is not out yet. Possibly in 2014), and that was always the case. He asks me things I have never done and not sure I can do, but he comes to me confidently believing I can do it, and then I get to work. I had spent chunk of the summer working on this mural project now you can see in DUMBO, Brooklyn. This was also the first time the fully colored illustration I had created only served as a ‘sketch’ for the mural painter Coby Kennedy, who single handedly paint both of the two walls in just ten days, all 160 feet of them. Well, it was a challenging project for me, but Coby should definitely get most of the credit. (and of course Wade Jeffree for being an amazing designer)
photos by Daniel Greenfeld

animation REALLY is a never ending work (but there is a reward waiting):
I mostly stayed away from animation projects in past, and after finishing one now, I have to be honest that I will most probably keep the same position except very few exceptions where I would strongly feel that I want to take on that project knowing what awaits me. Animation REALLY is a TON of work. Along with art-loving friends, I had worked on short 2D animation projects when I was in high school (yup, long time ago), so I knew how it goes, but 3D animation was a completely different beast that was just as, or even more time consuming.
For 2 minutes short animation film project for Italian fashion brand Trussardi, which just got released in Tokyo in early December, I spent most of September working 12-14 hour days every day, working on character designs and elements that goes into the film. I honestly thought I would not survive. I miraculously did, thanks of Rovina Cai, who is the most level headed, calm, ultra fast and super skilled coloring assistant god has sent me. (I mean, seriously, and I am not even sure if I believe in god, and I still say this, so this is major.)
It depends on how you count…, but I probably worked on close to 100 illustrations, if not more, in about one month period. But after seeing the finished animation, I knew that the work was even harder for the animators. It is quite a magical moment to see my drawings moving, in a way I have never done by myself. Kudos to the animators. I have higher respect to you now, more than ever.

Sarajevo and Bogotá made my head leveled and allowed me to grow up a bit more (+ amazing new friends)
I recommend anyone to travel, especially to those places where you don’t think of as typical tourist destinations, where you don’t know so much about. I guarantee the experience is richer.
I didn’t get to travel much when I was younger, so I am now catching up. I almost never say no when I get invited to foreign trips, most of the time workshops and/or lectures. I was so lucky this year brought me to places I  have never thought I would visit. In April, an illustration conference brought me to Bogotá, Colombia, then in October I found myself in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina for a design conference. (If any organization anywhere have interest in having me over, contact me directly anytime!)

I learned about power of students, and pain of the war in Sarajevo:
After close to 20 years, Sarajevo is still recovering from what the war has done to the city and its people. Not many things are working quite well (museums are closed for last two years, not enough heat is provided in the winter, no water at night, bullet and grenade marks are all over the building facades), but the students at Akademija Likovnih Umjetnosti (Academy of Fine Arts) are focused and enthusiastic, they have organized their own design conference called SOS Dizajn Festival which started in 2012. We worked a lot, laughed a lot, and also cried a lot (during the war tour of the city and hearing the locals’ experiences during the war time). Experience was rich and dense though I only stayed there for 4 and half days.

No, Colombia is not what you think it is:
Please don’t think of Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Colombiana, when you hear the word Colombia. I can guarantee those are Colombians’ least favorite Hollywood imagination of their country of all time. (Just like we think Karate Kid 2 is totally messed up and wrong). No, it is not dangerous. No, Bogota is not a small town in a jungle, and people are warm and friendly, design is booming, and it is quite an amazing experience, I guarantee it.

and…. I am not afraid of video camera anymore!:
please set your browser to permalink view to watch the video

So…., thank you all again very much. It was tough at times, but it was a year full of great experiences that made me grow slight bit more as a person, as an artist. Wishing you all very happy and prosperous 2014, filled with fun, challenge and adventures.
cheers to you all,