The Art: Skulls (cover for The Word mag’s Now Hear This! CD)
The Artist: Yuko Shimizu
About the Work:
When Yuko Shimizu moved from Japan to the United States, her goal was to learn to “draw like an American”. She’d come to hate the kind of illustration that had inspired her to first explore the art and, like so many who feel constrained by their native culture, wanted to try something new and exciting.
What she quickly discovered was that mimicking Western drawing didn’t hold any joy for her. It wasn’t that it was difficult, but that what Shimizu loved to create didn’t fit into the bounds of any preconceived notion of style. The work she enjoyed didn’t look exactly like something from an anime production, or a DC comic book – and that was completely fine. The only thing that mattered was that it was what she wanted to create.
“My work (might) look a certain way, only because it is the way I think and because I am who I am and that is something I cannot change”, she wrote on her website.
And so it was that she developed a unique body of work that has been acclaimed across the world. Combining a traditional Japanese aesthetic with Western pop-culture imagery and themes, Shimizu’s pieces have adorned everything from the covers of daily planners in the Philippines to an 80-foot double mural in Brooklyn.
Skulls is perhaps one of the best examples of how Shimizu’s interests and inspirations come together to create work that is familiar, yet different. Featuring a woman depicted in the Ukiyo-e style – a style designed to reflect the daily life of its subjects – Skulls incorporates an electric guitar and a cape printed with bones into a painting that still manages to look like it was made in the 17th century. Highly detailed, and with a striking sense of movement and form that explain Shimizu’s appeal, it truly is the work of a master.
It seems easy enough, but to create such an image without it feeling overt or satirical takes extreme skill and authenticity.
This authenticity extends to Shimizu’s materials. She uses Japanese calligraphy brushes specifically designed for the transcription of Buddhist sutra – religious text – which are amongst the most difficult tools for painters to master.
For more of Yuko Shimizu’s work, check out her website.