Inspiration: Yoku Shimizu

One artist I also admire is Japanese illustrator Yoku Shimizu. One reason is her art, of course. The other reason is her career and her choices she has made. As mentioned on her website, illustration is her second career. She chose to leave her corporate career to go to art school in New York and start her career as illustrator. This is something I admire, and I can relate to deeply because I’m somewhat in the same situation of having chosen a corporate career, and now opting to study something more creative on top. In an interview she explains several aspects and what she enjoys about being an illustrator and that one thing she teaches students is to learn, experience and view at things differently.

She often gives inspiring talks about the life as a creative. In this presentation she talks about the struggles she faces when working on projects but without having a real clue what the client actually wants and if the work fits their expectations. She also presents some questions that you have to ask yourself at the beginning of the career, including what kind of artist you want to be. She claims to copy the influence and learn and find your style. I guess that makes sense to develop your unique style as an artists to be an original artist. Another advice from her is to make peronsal work as often as you can to develop your style.

Write the ideal day 5 years from now as detailed as possible. Set your goals high.

I’m drawn to her work because it shows her Japanese roots, but also combines them with American influences. Her motifs and themes are creative and surreal, with lots of expression, and intriguing. I find her technique interesting because she paints basic shapes and lines with calligraphy ink (one of my favourite tools) and then colours them digitally.

For example, this piece at first glance is very Japanese, with Mt. Fuji in the background, the stamp with Japanese writing in the right corner, and the figure’s head has a Japanese hairstyle. However, at a closer look you notice that the woman is wearing some kind of superhero mask that you wouldn’t expect to see in Japanese art, but in American.  Often her work appears to be an ancient traditional Japanese graphic print, but then you notice something that – if it were really traditional – shouldn’t be there. I like how she plays with the style, and adds more interesting layers of meanings to it. For instance, in her wave / diving series, she also uses references like the The Great Wave of Kanagawa (which I also used as basis for my black-and-white exercise), and creates a piece in a similar style. However, she then adds her own idea of what the scene should look like, which the boy diving in the wave.

From my point of view, she is very original and expresses creative ideas and concept through her illustrations that make her work very recognizable.

References:, “Yuko Shimizu: Money or Control – Pick One”. Accessed on Nov 22, 2017.

Creative Boom. “Illustrator Yuko Shimizu on starting a creative career in your 30s and keeping home and work life separate” by Emily Gosling, published on April 7, 2017. Accessed on Nov 22, 2017

Digital Arts. “Yuko Shimizu’s new book shows the best of her rich, surreal work”, published on April 12, 2016. Accessed on Nov 22, 2017.

Design Ideas. “Men’s Health: Read Before You Dive In By Yuko Shimizu” by Mimi Lauder, published on Aug 4, 2015.. Accessed on Nov 22, 2017.

Huffington Post. “Yuko Shimizu; A Phantasmagorical Graphic Novel” by Evelyne Politanoff. Published on Dec 20, 2011. Accessed on Nov 22, 2017.

Yoku Shimizu’s website, Accessed on Nov 22, 2017.


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