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SVA's Yuko Shimizu on Starting a Creative Career in Your 30s

From Creative Boom: “Award-winning New York-based illustrator Yuko Shimizu creates work that combines Japanese heritage with contemporary reference points. The skill and detail in her work is breathtaking, and showcases a level of craft and hand-drawing mastery unlike many of her peers.

Shimizu's client list boasts the likes of Wired magazine, Newsweek and The New York Times; and she's also a frequent collaborator with renowned agencies including Sagmeister & Walsh. Here, she tells us about her fascinating career trajectory, and why her work life and career are best kept well away from one another.

How did you get into illustration?

I’ve always loved to draw, ever since I was little. I always assumed I would become a Manga artist, like any other Japanese kid who loves to draw. But when it came to applying to college, my parents weren’t happy about me going to art school. You know, they are typical parents who worried that art won’t get their daughter a job to pay her bills. I was also young, and not as determined, so I chose a regular university and ended up studying advertising and marketing (not in art, but in business). I thought they were the most creative subjects of the practical world.

I got a job doing corporate PR for a huge corporation who had a main building with thousands of people working there in the centre of Tokyo. I quickly realised working in corporate was not for me, but I didn’t have any other concrete plans. There was a steady paycheck, good benefits, job security… I ended up working there for 11 years. That was definitely not my plan.

Change came when I was around 30, and I was not a ‘kid’ anymore. It was like the first time I started to think like an adult, and think seriously about the future, and I mean far into the future. Would I be happy working in a relatively comfortable job possibly up to retirement? And that thought scared the hell out of me. Then I started seriously thinking ‘what would be the thing I have to do now that would prevent me from having regrets later on?’

Now, as a much older self, I think of life like this: we regret and feel bitter about things we have NOT done, and not about things we have done. We make stupid mistakes in our lives, but most of them—as embarrassing as they are—the pain will eventually go away. The regret of things you didn’t do would haunt you, and the regret and bitterness gets larger in your mind as time go by…” (For the full interview and more images, click here)

Related post: Dive Into Illustrator Yuko Shimizu’s New NYC Subway Posters [Video]

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