Yuko Shimizu
August 2009
Viking Queen Plays Golf
The idea of “golf” still have that old-fashioned feel.  You know, rich executives, exclusive and conservative...  But under Creative Director Ken DeLago, the art department at Golf Digest has been successfully reinventing that old-school idea.
When Associate AD Marne Mayer called me for a portrait of a young Swedish golfer Anna Nordqvist, she made it clear: “ Let’s do a portrait that would surprise the traditional readership!”  Her request was to “draw Anna as a Viking queen”.
“You mean, metaphorically or literary?”
“Well, it can be either way. Have fun!”
So, I ended up coming up with an idea of making this illustration almost like a fantasy book cover, really over the top. Only that she is holding a golf driver, not a sword.
Have fun, right? I was a sci-fi/fantasy geek back in my tween days.

And, OK, back to school special!
For all the illustration majors starting school in a few weeks, more detailed creative process on this post....

Process starts from thumbnails. Lots of them. Good drawings only come from lots of bad drawings, kids. Draw, draw, draw.
I usually draw thumbnails with pencil on photo-copy paper. (very easy to organize and file away the sketch piles after each job is done). No eraser while doing roughs. Art students, eraser is your enemy. Eraser makes your drawing meek. Throw away your erasers before the school starts!

Don’t forget the reference materials! Never copy one single picture is a rule. All the photos are copyrighted to someone, just like your drawing/painting is copyrighted to you. These are some of the photos I downloaded online. Viking museum snapshots to geek costume-play (!!!) to the illustration star of Scandinavia Kay Nielsen’s work…
By the way, these are maybe 1/5~1/10 of all the reference materials I have gathered from different sources. The more, the better understanding you get of the subject matter you are illustrating. (All photos are copyrighted to the original creators. Thank you.)

Two sketches were submitted. Let’s always give options to the client (and to your teachers, especially!) 
By the way, I DO know that the real Viking helmets don’t have horns. But we decided to add them anyway to make the concept more clear to American audience.  (Eraser is acceptable here.)

Then, to the drawing table. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star is the ink of my choice. Japanese calligraphy brush on watercolor paper. Drawing is about 13”x17.5”. My drawings are really loose, so I usually draw around the double the printing size or bigger.
*(By the way, I added this part later) I just found out that Kinokuniya Bookstore in New York carries decent number of various Japanese calligraphy brushes, and they actually carry the one I use. For those who are interested in trying them out.)

Drawing gets scanned in and next step is the Photoshop coloring. I seldom fix my drawing on the computer, but of course there are exceptions.
I open up the references (the magazine sent them to me) and really nail her likeness by very minor rescaling and moving of the facial parts. I call this process “plastic surgery” (always works!). Also softened some of the lines on her face to enhance her soft, young and fair feature.
(By the way, the cute wallpaper on my computer was made by one of my Venetian student Michele. It is his beloved pug. Cute, eh?)

OK, yes, ‘back to school special’… !
Here are all the layers involved in coloring this illustration (which I normally don't show). About 25 layers here; which are not as many as my illustrations usually have. This is a rather simple composition, so I was able to keep my layer count low. I think my average is about 50 layers.
(I know. Some of my friends call me crazy.)
There are lots of 'secret layers' that are so slight viewers won't even notice. But those are the ones that make the final image work. Final layered PSD file size here is about 700MB, which is also smaller than my avarage of about 1GB.

Final illustration: my 'faux Viking fantasy book cover'. Yay.
Magazine page layout. September issue of Golf Digest is in newsstand now. Thank you Ken and Marne.
And, all the art students, welcome back to school! Another year of productivity to come.

Photoshopping In the Beginning of Time (of photographs)
Robert Capa/Magnum Photos
Invention of Adobe Photoshop sure made it so much easier to manipulate photos. And a lot of us, illustrators, rely on the power of what Photoshop can do. I am one of them.
I wanted to share this very interesting NY Times article from this morning (Sunday, Week In Review Section) Faked Photographs: Look, and Then Look Again. What we call ‘Photoshopping’ (i.e. manipulating photos) and fake photographs are not just on the cover of contemporary glossy magazine.

Read the full article here.
See the slide show here.

(all the photos here are borrowed from NY Times site.)

Teaching in (HOT HOT) Venice!

Venice was HOT. I mean, really...
While I was teaching a six day illustration workshop in the last week of July with a local illustration organization Teatrio, the city recorded “the hottest day of 2009”.  In Italy, people don’t really believe in air conditioning. Summer is hot and you just sweat, like good old days. But with 13 students in a classroom? At first, I was not sure if I was able to survive.
It turned out to be one of the best teaching experiences I had ever had. 

How much can I teach in just 6 days?
I was a bit nervous at first. My job as a teacher is to let them get their money's worth.  But soon, I realized, sometimes short intensive time together can be a lot more effective than teaching once a week for one full school year.
How I try to teach is to work on each student’s strength and weakness. The crucial part is how much students and I can get to know each other in a short period. And this intensive time worked to our benefit.
We spend all 6 days together. Other than class time, we had morning café latte together, had lunch together, ate dinner together and sometimes had drinks late into the nights. Not that we had to, we just wanted to. And by the end of the course, we all felt as if we were the oldest friends! It was really sad to leave.

Thank you everyone. You were not the only ones who learned in those six days. You all taught me a lot to be always be passionate and love what I do, work hard, and also trained me to be a better teacher. Hope to see you again soon. And, I hope to go back to Venice again for another workshop.

The students were mostly Italian with one Canadian and one British, age and level all varied, from some in middle school all the way up to professional illustrator level. Everyone was just so nice, motivated,  hard working and helpful to each other. A few of the students even decided to stay in the school whole night before the last session, so they can finish the assignment.  (I did not make them stay, everyone!)
The assignment I gave this year was “create a superhero who saves Venice from sinking underwater”.  We didn’t have good internet connection, but with this project, they were able to find inspirations and references all over the city!

Ilaria Grimaldi saw an old woman on the street, imagined her llong life in Venice, then turned her into the superhero.
Ruggero Asnago got addicted to Venezian sandwitch Tramezzini, suffered from tight curfue of hostels, and turned a ghekko into superhero who has lots of 'useless' powers.

Beatrice Naomi Davies' heroes use bottles and cans to rebuild the city's old base. By the way Beatrice just finished high school and hoping to apply to art college in the US next year. What a talented young woman!

Peter Diamond used old plague doctor mask and San Marco. Peter is a Canadian now lives and works in Vienna, Austria.

Flavia Soprani's idea was vain-like canals turning into a big tree with bridges. I love that everyone's work and styles are so different!

Kalo Chu made herself into Chinese acrobats, balancing and lifting the city as well as all things she experienced during her stay in  Venice. Kalo is Chinese from Hong Kong now lives and works in London, UK.

Michele Boscagli turned signature Venice architecture into a monster of his own creation.

all the students (and me) with their certificates of finishing the course.
Visualizing Nightmares
Drawing nightmares is tricky.
It is easy to draw a nightmare you had last night, but when it comes to drawing the bigger ‘idea’ of nightmares, all of a sudden, it is not that visual. 
Besides, there is this iconic nightmare painting already exist by the master of the genre: Fuselli (please see below).

When Ronn Campisi, an AD who works with multiple publications around Boston area, called me for an assignment on this topic for Bostonia Magazine (alumni magazine of Boston University), it was a bit of struggle at first.
After getting rid of really cliché ideas that initially came and went in my head, I settled with two rather simple ideas of drawing the gloominess of the experience of nightmares rather than trying to illustrate too literary.  And, I tried to stay away from Fuselli imagery as much as possible. 
We were pretty happy with the final result.
This illustration got accepted into this year's Communicaton Arts illustration annual, which was a nice surprise at the end.  Thank you Ronn and CA!

The ultimate icon of nightmare images by Fuselli
two sketches. I could have done either one of them, but the bottom one probably had a better composition.
drawing as it was scanned in. Black india ink on watercolor paper.
Then using Photoshop I tediously cut out the swirl part to pop it up more from the rest of the drawing.
This is the final colored version.
Bostonia Magazine page layout. Ronn did an amazing job, and the illustration got accepted into this year's Communication Arts illustration annual. Thank you Ronn!
Reality Check!
“Reality check: things are not looking so great when you wake up.”
This was the line I received from AD SooJin Buzelli to come up with this illustration for PLANADVISER Magazine.

What I love about working with SooJin (as all the fellow Drawgers know) is that she knows the illustrators do our best job when we have the biggest freedom.
Well, to be honest, I thought maybe this idea was a bit too out-there, but she didn’t seem to mind it!

By the way, side track... I am still learning how to be a better blogger... I have only posted one (ONE!) post last month.. I am trying to be better at posting from now on...

Two sketches submitted. I really didn’t mind working on either one. The other one may have been fun too.
Next is the drawing stage. India ink with Japanese calligraphy brush on watercolor paper. Original image size is about 17" x 22". Yes, I draw quite large... The left is the original drawing as it was scanned in. The right is after the basic Photoshop value tweak before proceeding to the actual coloring stage, which is a time consuming process, but necessary to make the colors work well in the final.
SooJin only asks revisions if it is absolutely necessary. The very small, but very effective revision she wanted was to drop the blue color of the ocean into the kid’s eyes, so they pop more. Totally worked. Thank you SooJin.
final illustration. I added the golden leaves for compositional purposes, and also to enhance the concept.
final cover. I love how the type is doing hide-and-seek in between the waves.
interior spread layout.
Art, Fame and Money.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times (This photo is borrowed from New York Times site)
I was in shock this morning reading the New York Times article about the current financial situation of Ms. Annie Leibovitz, one of the most established photographers of our time.
I don’t think a week would pass by without seeing Ms. Leibovitz’s works somewhere, on the Louis Vuitton advertisements or in Vanity Fair or in Vogue. (In fact, there is a giant LV ad on the same section of NY Times. )
We all logically know that grass is not greener on the otehr side. We are adults, right?  But then, be real, when you hear that the artist is making the salary of 7 figures from Vanity Fair alone, don’t you kind of fantasize to be in her shoes?

Well, this article proves that you probably better off not to, and that other artists’ lives are probably not better than yours just because she/he has more fame and money. 
However the article is full of teaching lessons for being a freelance artist, so I wanted to share with you here. No spoilers, I will let you read the story.
And, let’s all hope that the things will turn out well for Ms. Leibovitz.

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