My name is Yuko Shimizu, I am a NY based illustrator, originally from Tokyo, Japan. I also teach at School of Visual Arts in Illustration Department here in NY.
How did you get started in illustration? What is a turning point in your professional career?
I probably should answer this backward. The turning point in my professional career, or life in general, came, when I was working in corporate PR job in Tokyo for quite a long time, not being happy but was not really courageous enough to make a big life change. I knew I always liked drawing, but I was not sure if I had guts to pursue it. Around 9-10 years into my first career, I had two really really terribly mentally abusive bosses, who made me realize it did not worth clinging onto the steady paycheck that didn't really make me happy.
I quit my job after 11 years of working there, and enough in my savings account, moved to NY in 1999 and enrolled in School of Visual Arts (where i teach now) to study illustration, and study art, for the first time. I did two years in undergraduate program (with mostly 18 year old classmates), then two more years in MFA program (still one of the oldest students in the group), and graduate in 2003.
Luckily, graduate program was really good at making us promote ourselves and think professionally, so I was able to slowly start getting work and paying my bills right after I finished my studies.
What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your art studio all day long or prefer to mix a few activities?
One thing I liked during working corporate job is the clear line between private and work lives. I still like to go to work every morning, and not bringing work (as much as possible) back home at night. I don't even have internet set up in my apartment.
Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do believe in 'inspiration' at all)?
I am a kind of person who thinks inspiration is over-rated. Well, at least in the context of illustration, because we work within certain frame work of the projects we get from clients. It's more about how much you can learn the topic outside of the materials a client gives you. The more you know about the subject matter, the diverse direction and concept you can come up with for the final results. It is not that we, professional illustrators, have a big light bulb in our head that lights up when inspired. Some projects may not be as inspiring as others. Yet, as long as we thoroughly learn about the subject matter, we can come up with good solutions and outcome to the project.
Where are your favorite art places in your city or outside?
If you are visiting NY and into art or books, make sure to go visit Strand Bookstore near Union Square. It is the book lovers' and art (book) lovers' favorite bookstore. Can be a bit dusty, but you can find amazing finds, and can spend hours there in the maze of new and old books mixed up together. They ship pretty much all over the world for low cost too.
Portrait photo: © Giorgio Arcelli