Yuko Shimizu is an award-winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City. Her stylish and surreal ink drawings blend traditional Japanese ukiyo-e art with American comic art. They have appeared in numerous magazines, advertisements, book and comic covers.
Shimizu was born in Tokyo, Japan, and grew up in Kanagawa Prefecture dreaming of becoming an artist. Yet, she put her passion to one side and decided to take the more practical path; studying advertising and marketing Waseda University’s School of Commerce. She graduated in 1988 and took a corporate PR position in one of Tokyo’s largest sogo shoshas.
In 1999, after 11 years in PR, prompted by two horrible bosses and the onset of an early midlife crisis, she resigned and moved to New York City to pursue her childhood dream. For the first time in years, she was drawing again. She decided to study art and was accepted into the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA).
Shimizu graduated in May 2003, and soon after began receiving editorial illustration commission. Working in her midtown Manhattan studio, she built her clientele up, from the occasional assignments from the Village Voice and the New York Times, to regular collaborations with The New Yorker and Financial Times. Her client list can now boast that it includes Adobe, MTV, Nike, Pentagram, Pepsi, Rolling Stone, Sagmeister & Welsh, Target and The Gap.
In 2009, when she started creating cover art for the ongoing Vertigo comic book series The Unwritten, by Mike Carey (writer) and Peter Gross (interior art). Shimizu created a cover every month, sometimes two a month, for seven years; a total of 71 covers. The Eisner Awards recognised her hard work, nominating The Unwritten for Best Cover Artist in 2011 and 2012.
In 2011, Gestalten published her first self-titled monograph. It spans ten years of her career and has now become a collector item. Earlier this year, Roads Publishing released a second, smaller, monograph called ‘Living with Yuko Shimizu‘.
In addition to Shimizu’s ongoing client work, she shares her infectious enthusiasm for illustration by teaching at SVA and giving lectures and workshops around the world. She has an incredible Skillshare course called Ink Drawing Techniques: Brush, Nib, and Pen Style, which if you are interested in inking you should definitely check out.
For me, the digital part is just “work.” I don’t enjoy it but it is a necessity. Ink drawing is the fun part I enjoy. So, it is not the matter of what is faster, etc. Illustration is hard work, so at least let me enjoy the part I love. Drawing is what keeps me going.
— Yuko Shimizu