Yuko Shimizu
April 2009
What Are You Doing on Tuesday?
School of Visual Art’s MFA Illustration Thesis Project show will open tomorrow, and there will be a reception next Tuesday, May 5th.
This is the program I graduated from in 2003, and now I personal-advise one student a year. As a lot of the peers know, it is one of the best illustration programs out there, and it is getting better and better every year. (I doubt I would even get accepted now that it has become so popular and competitive!)
Spring is here in New York, so come out, come out to Chelsea on Tuesday night. I will be there!

These are some of the works by You Byun, my dear hardworking, talented and super sweet student of this year. I am so proud of her. You can see more works by other students here.

Diapers, no joke.
“We want you to design diapers.” When the e-mail came in, I thought it was a joke. Or, at least a mistaken identity. Apparently, the original designer of Hello Kitty has the same name, and I often get e-mails from people who get us mixed up. After writing back politely to make this clear, they wrote back immediately and said “no”. The e-mail was intended to be sent to me. This is how I ended up designing diapers which is coming out in Sweden next week from Libero, one of the biggest baby product manufacturers in Europe.
I am not a big fan for “cute and colorful things for kids” mentality. I did not grow up with lots of Sanrio characters, and children’s books I adored as a child were not what you see in bookstores now a days.
The client obviously has seen my site and know I do a lot of powerful women theme, funny sex illustrations and all the other not-so-kids-friendly stuff.

final products. There are five designs, images on both front and back of the diapers.
Libero, apparently, is known for its’ unconventional, edgy, and experimental concepts and designs. Like fashion houses, they have Spring-Summer and Fall-Winter collections where they put out limited edition products. Looking at their past designs were fun: drawing of big gold bling on the back, character designed poo and pee drawn in sweet way, things like that. OK, I can do this!
Their spring collection this year is “Save The Tigers”. Rather than having cute character of tigers, they decided to go traditional and Asian. Perfect for me.
You can see their funny commercial and other things on
Big thank you to the nicest people at ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors and filmmaker Anders Hallberg who kindly filmed “making of” video.

Some of the sketches. Quickly done with pencil on paper, and color was added on photoshop.
ha ha ha. These were killed versions. They are supposed to be Japanese maple leaves, and they do actually look that way, but of course, they didn't want take that risk, and I understand. I changed them to more puffy red leaves.
How Unromantic!
A lot of the world famous classics won’t work if there were cell phones or characters knew how to text message. Casablanca or Romeo and Juliet would have had happy endings. If Joseph had a cell phone there was no Judaism. It sounds like a joke, but these technologies forever changed how the writers would create stories.
This was the article I illustrated for the last Sunday’s The New York Times Week In Review. It was a little goofy illustration. Not an epic kind of work. But I had a lot of fun.
All my illustrator peers know about this, but in case the readers here are aspiring illustrators or art students, I will explain a bit how it works with a job like this.
For a newspaper illustration, we usually have less than a day from start to finish. Yap. In this particular case AD Aviva Michaelov called me the evening before it was due on Thursday for Friday end of the day deadline, but I was working on another deadline for Friday so I asked if it is OK to send the sketches on Friday AM.

I try to give at least two ideas to pick from. I actually liked the right one, because you can do so much more with layout.
References I downloaded from internet. I used the top right for reference of the pose, and faces and costumes from that famous film (remember Olivia Hussey??), Romeo's hair style from bottom two paintings, etc. Mix and match!
After my other deadline wad done on Friday morning, I spent about 1 hour coming up with ideas. Sketches are rough, but everyone knows it has a tight deadline, so it is OK. I got an approval by early PM, worked on drawing and coloring for the rest of the afternoon. There was a minor revision, but everything was done by 7PM. There are two versions of finals: b/w to be printed in the actual paper, and color to be used on the web.

This is the original b/w drawing with ink on watercolor paper, without any computer coloring or editing.
And this is the final b/w image for print. Bubbles were drawn separately and added. Also some harsh blacks were toned down so Romeo and Juliet are separated more into two figures.
Finally the color version used only for website. We found out that the print was in b/w before I started coloring, so I made two versions. It was not too much more work, and I don't love the way color image prints as b/w. So, it worked out for both parties.
By the way, if anyone is interested, you can actually visit (what is supposed to be) Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy. Balcony was later added to make it look more authentic, but still fun to see where Juliet lived. Besides, Verona is a stunningly beautiful walled city with lots of fabulous wine bars and real Roman coliseum!

This is a view of Verona from the top of the coliseum. It is not the most common tourist destinations, but it definitely worth a trip. (No, I did not go there for a research of this job.I wish.)
Tale of Four Canal Cities Part 1: Sleepy Chioggia and Venice Underwater
Venice in rain... still picturesque
Ten days after I came back from Mexico, I was on the road again. I got asked to judge a children’s book competition for aspiring illustrators in Italy. It took place last week in Chioggia, a not-so-popular little sister of Venice about 1 hour bus ride away. Despite canals and historic buildings you never see a tourist. And most of the hotels are closed during off season. A sleepy cute little town.
Best part of these judging trips (well, other than going on a trip, that is) is always about meeting cool new people. This time I became friends with some fantastic people including: illustrator and professor at SCAD Mohamed Danawi, Miriam Martinez of Fondo De Cultura Economica a publisher from Mexico, and a Venice-based illustrator Stefano Vitale who’s recent children’s book is a phenomenal Why War Is Never A Good Idea.
Miriam, Mohamed and me during judging
from Stefano's book: Why War Is Never A Good Idea.
It was pouring rain. Despite a free day in Venice after judging, everyone was in bad mood, REALLY bad mood. Venice is a town where cars are off limit and you have to walk everywhere. We were soaking wet from head to toe. Just when my mood was switching from bad to terrible, something magical happens: Aqua Alta! Venice’s famous high water. Stefano tells me I have to come see San Marco Square becoming a big lake.
Wellies, wellies, wellies! Stefano knows how to dress for Aqua Alta!
It was a surreal scene. I only knew San Marco as a big square filled with thousands of tourists with cameras and pigeons flying above. All that were gone. In the darkness of the night, the whole square was quietly sinking under water. A few cafes were open, with live violin playing and people were still enjoying drinks in terraces half under water. Just to see that changed my mood and memory of this trip 180 degrees.
I got my mood back, then flew up north to Amsterdam and Utrecht, other two canal cities. I will write about my workshop at Utrecht School of the Arts next time.
Rain or shine, never forget to check out a local book store! Italians sure know how to design.
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Shimizu is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!
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