Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimazu Yuko Shimizu

Award winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City and instructor at School of Visual Arts.

Sketchtravel poster creative process step by step.

You may, or may not know about Sketchtravel. But, let me tell you that this is quite an amazing project that started relatively small, as something fun, and ended up becoming something of a monster-size charity project.

In 2006, project was conceived and organized by Dice Tsutsumi and Gerald Guelai as a fun small project, let’s pass a sketch book around from illustrators to illustratos, around the world and fill the book cover to cover. It took 4 and half years till the book was complete, contributing artists including: Hayao MiyazakiJames Jean, Peter DeSève, Taiyo MatsumotoTomer HanukaMike MignolaKatsuya TeradaNatalie Ascencios to name a few.  Resulting in publishing of the book in multiple language editions and becoming a bestseller in France and Japan, traveling exhibitions, and most importantly, auctioning off the original book  and raised 70,000Euros to fund Room To Read to build libraries in five countries so far

Traveling exhibition is arriving to Kyoto International Manga Museum in Kyoto, Japan in March.
As a contributor to Sketchtravel, I was honored to be asked to create poster for Kyoto exhibit. I took detailed record of creative process, so I am sharing them with you today. I often get asked about drawing medium and surface. For details of medium, please visit FAQ section.

"yuko Shimizu" "sketch travel" "poster"this is the finished poster. Let’s look at the creative process from the beginning….

"yuko shimizu" "sketchtravel"
everything starts kind of like this…. lots of doodles and thumbnails.
Concept started off as drawing a “Maiko” or two. Maiko is a younger version of Geiko (what westerners know as geisha). Both Maikos and Geikos are close to extinct in this 21st century Japan, but in old capital of Kyoto, the culture still exist.

So, this was my initial idea. Dice and I discussed and decided to go with a more contemporary take on Maiko culture. He said he wanted to see more of my “edge”. I was a bit weary at first… but said OK, I will do it.

Second idea. More with edge and tradition mixed with contemporary.  Japanese umbrella she is holding makes the shape of Japanese flag: red dot. Cherry flowers, of course, are the symbol of spring. Luckily, the show starts in spring, right around the famous Japanese Cherry Flower season.
This is a typical preparatin stage before moving onto actual inking stage. Add gutter space (in grey) and blow up the sketch to the size I am drawing. For a poster use, I usually go 22″ x 30″. Obviously, it takes multiple print outs from my Epson printer and lots of cutting and taping…

Lightbox saves your time (therefore your life). You can see the traced pencil linse on watercolor paper. this is about the tightest I normally trace. No tracing takes longer than a few minutes. It is more about transferring the sketch composition onto the paper. No more no less. It is my trick to ink fresh lines and not making it look like traced.
Some things cannot use shortcuts. So, I take good old compass to draw out the perfect circle for the umbrella.

Finish figure first, then the rest follows. Face ended up changing a lot from the sketch, but that’s part of the process. Only time I do tight face sketch is when I am doing a portrait.

I initially thought I would finish the drawing much faster, then ended up taking longer, because of large scale, and because of detailed cherry flower drawings.

Yaaay, getting very close to finishing up the drawing.  The book on the side was the book I referred to to draw various different types of cherries. Top was very close up, bottom was far away, and petals were drawn on separate paper.
Also, bunch of photos of real Maikos from kyoto, their hair style and accessories were downloaded from the web, as well as the famous five story pagoda, a symbol of Kyoto.

FINITO! (there is a bit of time-consuming process of getting the texture and tone on the finished drawing, which I ask to keep it as ‘secret ingredient’) This gets scanned in tediously in parts.  Yes, I do have a large format scanner (Epson Expression 10000XL), but it still takes at least four scans to get everything onto the computer. At least, Photoshop Auto-merge feature works like a dream and saves a lot of time.

Adobe Photoshop CS5.5. I should switch to Ps6…. Wacom Intuos 3 tablet (which died since, and now I am on super shiny Intuos 5).  Every coloring process is different, and this is one of the reasons why it is very hard for me to hire a coloring assistant. But most of the coloring starts something like this…

Getting there, but still not many layers. I know, I am a huge fan of masks. It is all about masking and masking and masking stuff….

This is my workspace… I have a large Apple Cinema Display (old one, died once and paid a lot of money to fix) next to the laptop. I don’t own a desktop computer and I never will. (and that keyboard died since then. Now I have a cute code-less.)

Cherry petals are inserted, and the number of layers are doubled. I think I call it done!

Once again, below is the final result, and there is a copy of the backside of the flyer on the bottom, for those of you who are in Japan who are interested in going to the exhibition.
I won’t be able to make it to the show, but I am sure it will be super, so enjoy!
"yuko Shimizu" "sketch travel" "poster"