The other day Joan of Art were lucky enough to interview the incredible artist, Yuko Shimizu. Check out her inspiring answers...
The Future is Japanese book cover, 2012.
JoA: You are obviously in great demand which I imagine must feel amazing, but do you still find time to draw just for you, for the fun of it?
YS: I don’t want to disappoint you, but my answer is no. And let me explain…. For the last…close to 15 years I have been doing this for a living, I draw almost every single day, mostly for projects. In the beginning, the projects I got and what I wanted to draw were very far apart. Over the years, those two started to merge together really well. I am very fortunate, though not all, many projects I get, I get to draw what I would draw in my free time if I didn’t have those projects.
In order to have those output, we need some type of input. We need to eat to have energy, car needs fuel, printers need ink… you get the idea. So, what becomes more important is, how to find time for input, and what that input should be, so the output will come out well.
Right now, I spend much of my free time for that input. I just went to hear a lecture by one of my favourite design duo Studio Job who are currently having an exhibition in New York. I try and read at least 2-4 books of my choice (meaning, outside of those manuscripts I read for work) to get inspired, and to seek knowledge. And travel whenever I can…among other things.
Having said that, reading a lot of inspiring books lately, is sort of giving me an idea of personal drawings I may want to do in future. I am not rushing it. When I feel I am ready to start, I will….
JoA: Joan of Art enjoy travel illustration and carry sketchbooks with us wherever we go. Do you enjoy drawing from life, in coffee shops/bars and on commutes etc.?
YS: So, for the reason I wrote above, I don’t really carry around sketchbooks. When I travel, I try to take in everything around me as an experience as much as I can, without actually recording. Which is kind of interesting, even for me, because to record is something we artists do naturally.
I just spent four days on a small river boat on the Peruvian Amazon. Slow old boat. It didn’t even have air conditioning. (there are lots of expensive tour boats with full first world equipment, which ours was not). I am glad I did it. We sat on the boat for long long hours each day, experiencing all the sun, rain and humidity. I can not picture you can have a real Amazon experience with the comfort of air conditioning…This is something you can never draw on paper. And it is nice to have experience that is not intuitively mine. I don’t know how that experience will come back into my drawings, but I am sure it will, some way or another.
Having said that, I am in process of speaking with an European sports team to do an intensive on location drawing session in late spring. So, the idea is a few artists come, and spend 3-4 days with the team with our sketchbooks. I used to do something like that, but not for a long time. So, it would be a nice change of experience, if the project realises. I do, in fact, love drawing on location. It is a whole another way of experiencing where I am at. It is a visual conversation with the subject matter...
The Amazon river boat Yuko travelled on. Photo from her Facebook page.
JoA: We really enjoy your very active online presence. How do you find people engage with you and respond to you when you share more than your work?
We personally find ourselves agreeing with you when you share political views etc. but we wondered if you receive backlash from sharing such views?
YS: Artists are people, before we are artists. And all artists have viewpoints toward life, politics, foreign policy… I do get annoyed when on social media some people say "stop talking about politics and just share art". But, the history of art is the history of the world and the history of the politics. If art is detached from what is happening in the world, art is just a meaningless decoration. So, I ignore those who complain about my standpoint. But I also let strangers say their opinion, even when I don’t agree. When there are trolls who make extremely politically or racially offensive comments, I delete them every once in a while. Not often.
I only share what I truly believe in, and when I think what I share is good for everyone to know.
Even if I convince just a few people that not all Muslims are terrorists, it is not OK to be homophobic, black lives do really matter, and some kind of gun control is definitely needed in the US, Trump movement should be stopped, and among other things…, it is worth it to tolerate some hateful comments saying artists should only stick to sharing art.
JoA: If you were deserted on a desert island, what would you want with you?
YS: A really good thick dictionary and my dog. They are enough to kill time. I think the rest, we can figure out.
JoA: If you could go back in time to any point and tell yourself something, what would that be?
YS: My motto is not to look back and move on. I don’t like regret. So, I don’t really need to go back in time. Life is interesting because we don’t know what’s in our future. The most important thing is that we know life is never perfect, and that we are doing our best despite it is not perfect. If I die tomorrow, I am OK. It was not a perfect life, but it was good enough and I had fun enough. My past me has to serve her time living each day, make mistakes, work toward goals despite uncertainty. Past me doesn’t need to know anything that happens in the future.
Photo from Yuko's Facebook page.
Huge thanks again to Yuko for great answers and powerful sentiments.
We can't wait to see her future projects and encourage you to check out her latest book:
Living with Yuko Shimizu