Interview – Yuko Shimizu

TIME Magazine - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

TIME Magazine - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Yuko Shimizu ©2011 all rights reserved

Following on from the Creative Spotlight earlier this week, Yuko Shimizu kindly agreed to answer a few questions for We Fancy It. If you didn’t catch the post, it can still be found here.

1) The story of your rise to prominence within the field of illustration is an inspiring one, is there any advice you would give to any aspiring creatives?

Whether it is illustration or anything else, I believe the key is to really want it, have high ambition, and really work hard toward that without giving up. It sounds simple, but from almost ten years of teaching as illustration instructor at School of Visual Arts (SVA, an art college in New York), I found it is not that often you see a young artist who has all of them going. It is almost that initial talent does not matter.  Often what I see is a young artist who didn’t have that ‘gift’, but worked harder than anyone else, and become successful at the end. I love that.
Also, whatever you need to do to survive (i.e. day job) only makes you stronger. As an illustrator, I don’t just draw pictures, I have to negotiate with clients, and keep track of my paperwork, as well as promoting my work. All of that, I worked during my 11 years of corporate life. When I started out way later than most of other artists, I felt like I had wasted my time, but soon I realized I was just spending those 11 years to be fully ready. I don’t think I would have survived ten years of illustration life without that 11 years.

2) Was there ever a moment when you thought that you wouldn’t make it?

I actually love it when someone asks me this question. Because the answer is: all the time, and I still do. Everyone has doubt. I am sure even Beyonce or Woody Allen would have doubt. It is just human nature. And, it would probably help aspiring creatives to know that the doubt never goes away and it is OK. Of course, the kind of doubt changes according to the state you are in. I used to worry about not passing classes, or may not be able to get a visa to stay in the US, or have enough money for grocery shopping next week. I don’t worry about those anymore. But I have doubt that I may get work because the clients don’t realize how bad an artist I am. Or, job will stop coming in, when my phone does not ring for a week. I would be worried if I stopped doubting myself. If I stop doubting myself, that means I am full of myself. When you are full of yourself, you are over.

3) Your style is visually very powerful, who or what would you say have been major influences in your work?

I have lived long enough I have years and years of different influences from different artists or influences accumulated in me. I sort of stopped mentioning names of those who had influenced me in past, because most of them don’t have any relevance to me at this moment although there are definitely inerasable trace of them in my work. At this point, I believe that everyday life and experiences are the most influential to what I do and who I am.

4) I understand you currently teach at BFA level, is there anyone you would recommend keeping an eye on for the future?

Going back to 1, really, it is up to them. They may be talented, but they are young and they may end up focusing on something else in the future. Or, those who are not the best in the class end up working the hardest. I ended up never pursuing what I majored in college, so nothing wrong with that. Really, it is all up to them.

5) Aside from illustration, what are your other passions in life?

Drawing has been my hobby for most of my life sans last ten years when it became my occupation. So, really, it is hard to think what my hobby is now. It changes. I love traveling, I love cooking and eating good food, and long walks in the parks…

If you would like to see more work from Yuko then please visit her website and keep up to date with all the latest news on her blog


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