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Yuko Shimizu talks about illustrating and her favorite books

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading suggestions. For this issue I interviewed two outstanding illustrators.Tom Gauld, originally from Scotland, works in London producing distinctive ink illustrations and comics. He is the author of Robots, Monsters, Etc. (Cabanon Press).First up, though, I interviewed Yuko Shimizu, a professional illustrator based in New York.She has worked for a wide range of magazines including Interview, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fortune, and Rolling Stone.This interview catches Yuko Shimizu in the last days of a busy 2005.

You might want to check out Yuko Shimizu’s website to see her illustrations before reading the interview:

READERSVOICE.COM: What makes a good illustration, and what kinds of things do you like to see in other people’s illustrations?

YUKO SHIMIZU: I believe every illustrator has his/her own idea of what is good.

For me, originality is the most important factor.

Some illustrators say “Illustration is not art”, and that is fine, but I still think it is, and if something is art, it has to be creative and original, or you should at least try to create things that way.

RV: Where do you live in New York and how do you get to Shy Studio or to your teaching job at the School of Visual Arts each day? What’s your daily routine?

YS: I live in Upper West Side in Manhattan. It is an area close to Central Park and Columbia University, for those who are not familiar with the area.

I work in Mid Town Manhattan, where I share a studio (not officially) called SHY Studio.

From the transit strike of last week [December 2005] I guess by now all the US knows how we all depend on subways and buses.

That is how I go around town, to everywhere including college where I teach.

During the transit strike, I was forced to walk to my studio, which was around an hour and a half one way.

It was great exercise, but I prefer trains running.

I usually come to work around 10-10:30 AM and work till around 10PM, sometimes earlier but most of the times later. There are no specific daily routines.

I make a cup of coffee, and turn on my computer; the rest changes day to day.

RV: You are involved in a lot of activities from collaborations, to judging art, to illustrating for magazines, to teaching. What are some of the things you have done in the past few months?

YS: Work, work and work… I guess. I am writing this on December 30, 2005. It is about 6PM.

I usually work on Saturdays (and most of the time Sundays, too), so tomorrow will be the last work day of the year.

I was going through my paperwork for the year this afternoon.

My illustration invoice number I wrote down today was #149. That means I had worked on 149 illustration jobs this year.

Isn’t it crazy? I guess that was the reason why I was so busy this year.

In the past few months, what I mainly did was illustrating and teaching.

I haven’t done much besides these.

I will be judging two shows in early Spring. I am very excited about it.

I love judging shows. You actually learn a lot from it.

RV: What sort of briefs do you get from magazines, for eg. New Yorker, or Interview? How much detail do they give you about what they want and can you give an example or two?

YS: It all depends, but usually this is how it works.

A magazine art director calls you for a job. They send you an e-mail with the article attached.

They tell you size, etc.

You read the article, brain-storm, come up with some ideas, draw them into a few different idea sketches.

Send them to the art director through e-mail.

He/she gets back to you with comments. Comments sometimes can be “I love it!”, and sometimes can be “Can you come up with something better?”.

And once the sketch part is cleared, you make the final illustration, and e-mail that back again to the magazine. Quite simple, no?
RV: Could you list some of your favorite magazines on art or illustration?

YS: For illustration there is only one magazine, 3×3.

It is a beautifully made magazine, for sure.

If you like illustration, that may be the magazine you’ll want to look at.

Print magazine is a good graphic design magazine.

iDn in Hong Kong is a good magazine for design, illustration, etc.

You can buy it in the US as well.

But, to be honest, I don’t read a lot of art-related magazines.

My favorite magazine is probably New York Magazine.

I subscribe to it, of course, and I have given the subscription to lots of friends.

It is intellectual, and it has a bit of gossip.

It covers everything from current events, politics, the real estate market, art and theater to fashion.

The articles are well written, and short enough to cater for busy New Yorkers who read magazines on subways during their commute.

It is also very well designed. It is a true winner!

Ask my studio mates; every Tuesday morning my conversation starts with “According to New York magazine this week….(the rest changes week to week)”.

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