Baba Yukiko – Pokemon Card Artist Spotlight

I want to tell you all about Baba Yukiko and her Pokemon card artwork. I don’t think this is an artist who gets even remotely enough praise for a distinct and very cool art style honed through decades of work. She got her start early on in the Pokemon world, illustrating at least one of the picture books, and starting on the card game in the Neo series.

Let’s get a look at some of these awesome cards and learn why Baba Yukiko is a great Pokemon artist.

You can see here, a distinctive, sort of sketchy, abstract style right from the get-go. Hand-painted vague backgrounds, interesting off-model looks for the characters. Those Swinubs are just little blobs, wile Kakuna looks like it got scrapbooked in there. It’s cool.

The loose style also really works well for the Gengar line. We all know Gengar is the best dude ever, but the sketchy designs and the weird backgrounds really make them pop here. I loved these cards as a kid, even if they’re nothing special as game pieces.

You can also find that Baba Yukiko, even early on, was really good at setting a little scene for each Pokemon. Arita Mitsuhiro was really good at dynamic poses, and Baba Yukiko was really good at scene-setting. It’s a really nice testament to how good Pokemon card art is, that there’s such a wide variety of art styles represented. It meshes so much better than it has any right to.

As we get past the retro cards and into the Ruby & Sapphire age, Baba’s art changes into a more streamlined version of itself. A whole lot of Pokemon card artists did the same thing during this time, moving closer to a house style and ironing out the sketchier stuff. And, of course, I’m sure the artists were just experimenting and growing themselves too.

How did this work for Baba’s loose and somewhat abstract style?

I’d say pretty well. The Pokemon still get these weird settings, and they still get to do their thing. The designs are cleaner, but it’s still got a strong cartoony feel.

Cool colors, cool painting, great all around.

You know how much I love me some Smeargle, and hand-painting a Smeargle works perfectly. Hand-painting a painting of a scene of Smeargle and friend painting a scene.

I’m really into this Shuppet card art, too. Representing Japanese culture through the lens of some Pokemon helps continue to connect the series to its roots, where the series was just “Hey let’s make Dragon Quest V Meets Earthbound” and half the monsters were random Japanese culture creatures. It’s a ghost Pokemon in broad daylight, hanging off a seaside house… I love it.

These days, Baba Yukiko mainly does simple character cards. The meat and potatoes that helps the game run.

Nice little Pokemon living in various forested environments, happy to see you. They aren’t the weirdo cards that’ll stick with you forever like a lot of Baba’s earliest work, but it’s really cute, extremely solid, with really nice settings. The early stuff was funky, but her work now is a million times better and I’m really happy every time I see her cards.

She’s a little obscure as far as long-term Pokemon card artists go. It’s harder to find info about her than the others I’ve done articles about so far. Let’s promote Baba Yukiko and let the world know more about her awesome art!

Also, read more of my Pokemon card art articles:

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