Yuko Shimizu

Episode 1 C-19 Virtual Summit

Multi-award-winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City with almost 20 years of experience illustrating. Her work includes multiple disciplines; from pages of The New York Times and Wired to covers for DC Comic and Penguin. Yuko is a two-time Hugo Award nominee (2019, 2020) and has won more than 15 medals from the Society of Illustrators.

A lit room lined with books shows us Alex Czetwertynski, a digital artist and curator working in creative technology and media arts. He introduces us to Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu. Yuko, who is in her studio in Manhattan, sits in front of a collection of artwork, including some of the emblematic plates from designer Piero Fornasetti, several art books, and an iconic Mao Zedong poster. She coyly, but cheerfully, joins the conversation and introduces herself.

In this first episode of C-19 virtual summit—a long distance conversation that seeks to find opportunity for the creative industry in times of economic and social uncertainty—Yuko tells us about her work, her outlook on this crisis, how the life of creators—especially illustrators—will change after this, and the importance of art in times of self-isolation.

Yuko’s story is one of inspiration, a path well known by many creators, the leaving everything behind to become an artist. She goes on about quitting her job in Tokio doing corporate PR for a Japanese company and moving to New York at the age of 34 to become one of the most recognized illustrators of our time.

After showing us a great deal of her illustration process and giving us a glance of what could be next for her, she turns her attention to the undeniable transformation we are all facing and the importance of learning to adjust. “Life for illustrators is changing,” she says. “Adapting is an opportunity. Young people adapt so much faster and that’s encouraging because it means that the kids are alright.” So, what’s the opportunity for creative freelancers? What is the role of art during these times? “Art is not a luxury,” Yuko says, “art is something that helps us overcome anxiety, it helps people stuck at home, getting through.”

Watch the whole conversation on Vimeo now. Find Yuko Shimizu on Instagram.