1. Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?
I was born in Tokyo, and grew up mostly there, and partially in New York during late 70s to early 80s. I have been back to New York again from 1999, and I have been illustrating since around 2002-2003.

2. In what main ways does Japanese culture differ from American culture in terms of:
I am not sure if I am exactly the right person to answer this, because I was not working in the field of art when I was still living in Japan. I studied advertising and marketing (the business part, not the art part), and worked in PR... The only art school I went was in New York (School of Visual Arts); so I cannot compare art school either. What I can say, though, is that I was amazed by the difference between the US education and Japanese education (in general). In Japan, they focus on teaching students how to memorize things: memorize fact, memorize how to do things in the most efficiently... In US, they focus on teaching students how to think in their own terms. I cannot say which is better. Each have pros and cons. For example, Japanese people in general are way better draftsman; they can all draw quite well in average, way more so than Americans. On the other hands, American people can come up with ideas and concepts that are so unique Japanese people with great skill might never be able to. They don’t limit themselves on way they think.
Well, it is not just about art. It is in everything. But also, it explains how art differs in each country quite well.
Being a woman / a female professional...
Being a woman, a female professional Well you all know about extreme low glass ceiling they have over there. Of course, I have not lived in that country for 11 years, and I am sure things has changed much since I left. Also at the same time, I know that country is notorious for slow change.
The in generals of day-to-day life...
In general, day to day life... Now, this is the hardest one.. I think they are just so different; it is a lot easier to pick up things that are the same. It is, a very very different environment over there. If you are an American who has never visited Asia or Japan. I highly recommend you to go visit. In fact, it is a very fun country to go visit. To live there...? Now, that’s a whole another story. But I can speak about it for hours and hours and hours.

3. How have you noticed the industry changing since you've started illustrating professionally? Has the world change much since 2002? I assume it is hard to hear the answer ‘no’ from anyone. Technology is changing the world so fast so much every single day now. Of course, it does affect illustration; just like it affect everything else. Now, my phone (landline) doesn’t ring so much anymore! It is rare clients call. They e-mail! Or, I sometimes get jobs through my Facebook! Ah, the crazy 21st century
4. Can you remember doing any really bad jobs when you were getting started just to get your foot in the door?
I have done a lot of bad jobs. I probably still do, although I try not to. But it has nothing to do with get my foot in the door. The bottom line is, try and do your best regardless, as long as you have taken that job. If the job is not suitable for you, you don’t have to take it. I don’t. But sometimes, no matter how much you try, things turn out not the way you want. Maybe it is the subject matter; maybe it is the heavy art direction... But always try the best. Because if you try your best and things don’t turn out perfectly, you know, at least, you had tried. As long as the work is professional publishable level, you had done your job. But don’t ever do work badly because you don’t want to spend time or effort on it. If you know that’s the case, you just don’t take that job!

5. Your work, although always beautiful, always seems to have some great ideas - what do you do to brainstorm / idea generate?
I don’t think it is always great idea... But thank you. At least I try.... Ideas come from research on subject matter. We professional illustrators don’t have light bulbs that lights up immediately when we get briefed on projects. There are many many days I feel like it is the end of the career because I have no good idea to come up with. Then I just patiently go online and do research on subject matter, keywords to the concept... Draw a lot of bad thumbnails... And from there, ideas eventually come out...

6. Stylistically, how did you wind up where you are now? - Any idea of where your work may be a few years down the line?
I am an artist; I let my work naturally evolve. I don’t know my future, in terms of style or look, and that’s the part of fun. I used to work in corporate where I can see my future in the coworkers nearing their retirement. I can see the rails all the way far in the future, tens and twenties of years in future. I got freaked out. I want to be in the position I am in full control of those rails. I put down the rails as I go. A great feeling, it is.

7. Can you think of a favorite job you've done, or AD you've worked with off the top of your head?
I don’t know if I had a favorite job I have done. I have at least a few, if not more. I have at least a few ADs I love working with. I won’t mention their names here, but the bottom line is, when art directors know exactly who is the perfect person for the project, and pick me, and trust what I do, then I do the best work. There are jobs happened like that, and there are ADs who are really good at making the very right decisions. I really appreciate that.
8. Do you listen to music while you're working - if so, who?
I have tons of music on my iTunes. And I listen to according to my mood. When I am down, maybe Jamiroquai, when I am stressed out maybe Moby’s ambient songs may do, I am working on my personal work? Bjork may put me in the mood. I want to feel the summer, then Ry Cooder... Well, there are many more musicians I love, but just to let you know that I switch according to what I need at that moment. But actually, the best company to my work is WNYC, streamlined form my computer. I basically listen to it morning till night, most of the days. I am stuck in my own small world of my studio most of the time, and WNYC keep me updated with news, politics, current events, art, new albums, and everything else in between. My studio-mates and I are getting hooked to going down to WNYC Green Space, not far from our studio, to go check out the live recordings. Our favorite is Sound Check. Take a long lunch break, and go listen to great music and talk for one hour. It is absolutely fantastic. We recently went to hear Sharon Jones, and Moby in this very small intimate space.

9. What does New York offer you that other cities do not?
I like the fact New York lets you be yourself. New York is filled up with people who came here from all over the country, and from all over the world. We all had goals and dreams in mind, each different, and head out to this city. And there is energy that New York has, which you cannot experience anywhere else because of that.

10. Where are some of your favorite places to travel?
My motto is; go anywhere I have never been, just for experience. So, when schools and design organizations invite me, I try to go as long as that fit into my schedule. Having said that, my favorite country to visit is Mexico. It is just magical. There is no place like it, Latin culture, Europe and America, and indigenous culture all meets up there. Unfortunate thing is that most of Americans have wrong perception of Mexico, without actually experience the life there (beach resorts won’t count). I hate American stereotyping Mexico or Mexicans. It is just so beautiful and magical, filled with great people. And I cannot get enough of it.
11. How does your experience with tutormill sync up to teaching in real life? What are the sames when dealing with a student / what are the differences?
It is great in many ways. I have only taught those I can meet, most of them in New York (I teach at School of Visual Arts) in past. But with TutorMill, students can be anywhere in the world and take classes with teachers who are also spread around the world. I think I had taught like three or four students from Spain so far. It is really cool to get to know those passionate illustrators abroad. We teach in team of two, which students can pick and choose, so I ended up teaching with many illustrators I had never had a chance to teach with. Most of time we agree, sometimes we argue, but all for good! And students can get so much out of it. At first, I was worried because we only talk online, not in person, but there are a lot of benefit that can fill that gap up and more.

12. What’s the best part of being a teacher?
I learn a lot from the energy of the students. Sometimes what I give them as advice subconsciously come back to myself and end up giving the same advise to myself. Weird, but true.

13. What are you loving about illustration right now?
I just love that I can make living doing what I always had as a hobby. Sometimes deadlines stress me out, but at the end of the day, this is what I love to do. And I cannot get enough of it.

14. Any advice for new illustrators looking to break into the biz?
Love what you do, and work really hard. It is not easy being an artist. But as long as it is what you love, you can go through anything. It is not just about illustration or art in general, but just choose something you absolutely LOVE. Power of love will take you a long way!!!
All images copyright Yuko Shimizu - See more of Yuko's work on her website: http://www.yukoart.com
Thanks Yuko!!!



1. where are you from and how long have you been illustrating? (every interview starts this way)
I am from Philadelphia and I have been illustrating for about 6.5 years.

2. how has your graphic design background helped you as an illustrator?
Working as a graphic designer was great because it gave me a sense of the various types of people I would be working with as an illustrator. Since Graphic Design and Illustration are both commercial art, I understood how competitive it is out there and how much dedication and hard work it took to succeed. In terms of being an actual designer, I understood from the get go how to problem solve and work with clients to meet their needs, which is exactly what you have to do as an Illustrator. Illustration deals with a lot of the same principals as Design such as composition, color, problem solving, concepts etc, so I think my switch to Illustration was a very natural progression.

3. is there anything you miss about your graphic design career?
Hmmm... Well, sometimes I miss talking to people during the day :) I’ve listened to every “This American Life” podcast and although I love listening to stories, actual people in the same room can be a nice break from being with yourself all day. But- that’s basically all I miss.

4. do you ever miss living in New York?
Nope. I go to New York for certain events or to visit friends and when those events are over, I really look forward to getting back to Northampton.
5. what was your experience like at Savannah College of Art and Design?
I had a great experience at SCAD. Savannah was a perfect place to attend graduate school because it was so peaceful. It was important to me to get away from New York City to devote two years to nothing but illustration and to figure out my personal style. I had a lot of great professors. I was able to do an independent study with one my professors, Catherine Fruisen, (who is an illustrator that goes by the name of Violet Lemay), and that experience was invaluable. I learned first-hand what it was like to be a professional Illustrator. Catherine gave me a lot of assignments that she had from actual editorial clients and those assignments allowed me to create a very cohesive student portfolio. Minus the palmetto bugs (flying cockroaches), Savannah and SCAD were wonderful.

6. im pretty sure your work (which is amazing, and hopefully everyone reading is totally familiar with) is a mix between traditional and digital methods.
why were you drawn to this method of working? - do you prefer one aspect over the other?

Correct, my work is a mix between traditional and digital methods. I have always loved to draw and from working as a designer, I was comfortable on the computer. While I was in school though, I fought the idea of working digitally because I think I must’ve thought that to be taken seriously as an artist you had to work traditionally. My first year of grad school was spent creating illustrations traditionally and I felt like something was missing. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but the images I saw in my head were not what was coming out on paper or canvas. I started to embrace a few digital methods and something just clicked. My work began to make sense to me and I was starting to like what I was doing. So, I continued to draw all my lines traditionally and paint a variety of textures and compile everything digitally and I still work that way with some variations. My favorite part will always be drawing the line work in pencil. I often get sick of my work and am always looking for subtle ways to work differently, but the line work always stays the same.

7. you have a very sophisticated color palette - does that come pretty natural for you, or is it ever a struggle?
Thanks! I often can visualize the colors of an illustration but I am also inspired by a lot of colors that I see around me. Flowers, clothing, textiles, colors in a movie, old signs on the street etc. If I see any type of palette that I like I remember it and it will usually come up in one of my illustrations.

8. how important, in your opinion is having a rep for non editorial work?
Well, I don’t really know. I am fairly comfortable with maintaining my editorial clients and not so comfortable obtaining non-editorial clients. So for me it makes sense to have an agent for non-editorial work. Everyone is different and deals with clients differently, so I can only speak for myself.

9. your style is very distinct - how has it been evolving?
I think my line-work has stayed the same or pretty similar since I started illustrating. I think my color palette and textures have changed and will continue to change throughout my career. As I said earlier, I often get sick of my work and am always trying new things in order to keep myself happy and to hopefully keep my work fresh. I have incorporated everything from pastels, acrylic, ink washes, woodcuts, screen printing and most recently letterpress type into my work and I think with each exploration I learn something new.
10. do you find you have a natural tendency to draw more women than men?
I would say it’s 50/50.

11. whats the most important thing to know about a job before you start concepting?
I think it’s very important to know your client and to remember why they hired you in the first place. A client knows your work from your portfolio, so it’s important to read the article or brief and think about what the client may have seen in your work that would fit that job and solve their problem.
I remember when I first started out as an Illustrator, I would sort of panic for a few minutes when I got a new job. My mind would race and I would be thinking of a million different solutions. I remember a lot of those solutions were not exactly the type of work that was in my portfolio because I thought I needed to show a million different options. As time went on, I realized who I was as an illustrator and I gained some confidence in my personal style. It’s important to stay true to yourself and do what comes naturally to you.

12. what are you loving about illustration right now?
I’m loving that I see illustration used in so many different ways. It seems like people are yearning for a more hand-crafted approach and feel to their ads, book covers, magazines, album covers, movie posters, commercials etc. and it’s very refreshing.

13. how important is down time for you? how do you like to spend it?
Down time is pretty important to me. I like to work on house projects, work in the garden, go for a run and have relaxing meals and drinks with my partner and friends.
14. do you listen to music while you work? if so, what?
Yeah I do listen to music. I listen to my ipod a lot because it helps me to stay planted at my drafting table. Let’s see...I stop pushing the skip button when I land on Neko Case, The Kinks, Magnetic Fields, M Ward, Guided By Voices, The National, The Flatlanders to name a few.

15. do you think devises like the ipad are going to have any major impact on the industry?
Well- I’m staying positive and I think they will have a good impact on our industry. Yep- positive.

16. own any dogs?
No dogs.

17. advice for new illustrators trying to break into the game?
My advice would be to not get discouraged and not to give up. I get contacted by a lot of students asking this question and I feel like a broken record, but work really, really, really hard. Hard work and perseverance does actually pay off. Illustration is such a competitive field that you have to find your unique style and have a consistent portfolio in order for clients to remember you and your work. If you stay true to yourself and create work that comes naturally to you it will be apparent in your portfolio. Also- reach out to other illustrators and create your own community. Being an Illustrator is a solitary profession that can be a bit scary- it helps to connect and vent to other people in your situation. Good luck!!

18. any advice for the older / established ones?
Ummm... Advice? No. Praise? Yes- thanks for all the inspiration!
all images copyright Kim Rosen - see lots more here: http://www.kimrosen.com
thanks so much Kim - great great work!!