Interview with Yuko Shimizu

We continue our Interview series—in which we ask contemporary illustrators to share their experiences. Today’s guest is Yuko Shimizu.

© Yuko Shimizu

© Yuko Shimizu

Where were you born?

I was born in Tokyo, Japan.

When did you realize that drawing could be a living?

Growing up in Japan surrounded by Manga and Anime, I knew from very early on that there were people who were making a living creating pictures.

But the knowledge didn’t actually sync with my life until quite late. I got a business degree and worked in corporate PR for 11 years, when I finally made up my mind to pursue becoming a professional artist, moved to NY and started studying at School of Visual Arts in Illustration Dept. I started off really late. I’ve been doing this for a living for longer than in my previous job.

Where did you go to college? After college, what was your first work-life experience?

My first work experience was in a full-time corporate environment in Tokyo. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was not for me, but it took a long time to get out of it.

When I started my second college, I felt like I had wasted a whole lot of time—but now looking back, everything I needed to know to run my own one-person business, I learned there. So, no regret.

What was your first start in children’s books? Did you sign with an agent? Was it with a meeting with an editor or art director?

My first book was published in 2013. Abrams asked me if I wanted to illustrate Barbed Wire Baseball (written by Marissa Moss).

This means, for the first 10 years of my career, I did everything else. I did a lot of editorial illustrations, and book covers.

Care to share two career highlights?

When my income surpassed the amount I paid as tuition to art school. ‘Success’ is all relative, but that really made me feel like that’s a success benchmark. I paid tuition and living cost from savings from my previous job, so that was big.

When my second career surpassed the time I worked in my previous job. I remember the whole 12th year, I was extremely anxious, like it may also end at any moment.

What insight can you provide about being an illustrator that you think all illustrators should know?

When art is your job, half of the time you are doing things outside of creating artwork so your small business can run.

It’s just how it is, we just have to get used to it. If you are not good at it, you have to learn to be good at it, like you need to get good at art.


We want to thank Yuko Shimizu for her insight. If you think this interview would be helpful to illustrators, please pass it along using the “Share” button below.

Be sure to visit her website here. And, thank you for reading!