A self-described nerd who, as a child, sat in the corner and drew while the other kids played dodgeball, Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu didn't always know that she wanted to be an illustrator. She spent 11 years doing public relations for a corporation in Tokyo before escaping to New York for art school. And after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2002, she gradually amassed an impressive roster of clients including The New Yorker and Playboy. Her style is surreal and sexy, combining the language of Japanese woodblock prints with the grammar of graphic novels. Here, Shimizu talks about which artists she worships, what advice she would give to young illustrators, and why she'd rather stay away from the animation world.
What do you say when people ask you, 'What do you do?'
I used to say, "I'm an illustrator" when I started out, and I realized nobody knows what illustrators do -- unless you're a children's book illustrator. So now I say I draw pictures for magazines and newspapers, which people seem to understand.
What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the illustration world?
The Internet. It sounds dumb, but before the Internet, if you made art, you had to show it, otherwise people didn't see it; you had to show it physically. Now, you make art and, even if you're someone who's not a professional artist and you make great art in the middle of nowhere, you put it online and, if the work is good, people start talking about it and linking to you. It's as simple as that.