Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 3, 2017

Illustrator Sunday – Sharismar Rodiguez Part One – Interview

Sharismar Rodriguez is an Associate Art Director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers and their imprint Clarion Books, where she designs and art directs children’s books for all ages, from Picture Books to Middle Grade and YA novels and Non-Fiction volumes. She started her career in children’s publishing right after obtaining her BFA in Visual Communications from Parsons School of Design.

Some of her work includes award winning and note worthy titles such as New York Times bestseller Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars; Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Illustration 50 West winner 10 Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus by John Grandits, illustrated by Micheal Allen Austin; Maybe Something Beautiful, an ALA Notable Children’s Book recipient, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez; among other books.

When she’s not busy collaborating with amazing illustrators, writers and editors, she’s a secret art crafter, a compulsive Pinterest “pinner”, and a notebook-under-the-mattress writer.

Sharismar enjoys a wide-range of illustration styles to match the wide range of stories that she publishes.

You saw her first Illustrator Sunday critique last week. This week is Part One on my interview with her. Part Two will be posted on October 1st. The Sunday’s in-between will feature more illustrator critiques.

Here is Sharismar answering my questions:

What type of things you do as Associate Art Director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR?

I’ve always seen myself as the children’s book version of a surrogate mother where the parents’—if I may—seeds (the text and the art) are handed to me for a short period of time, to nourish and develop that child until it’s ready to be released into the world. It’s a weird metaphor, I know, but as with children, I’ll always love and feel proud of each and everyy one of the books I’ve help bring to life.

Now, more technically, what I do as an art director is work closely with editors, artists and authors overseeing the book making process, we review the art together in different stages; I design the cover and interior layouts; I work with my colleagues in the production department on color correcting the printer’s proofs and the books’ specs (paper stock, inks, finishes, etc.); among many other tasks I won’t bore you with. 

2. Are you open to working with unpublished illustrators?

Yes, of course. We are always looking for fresh talent and new ideas. I think the challenge is to find the right match for the right project at the right time.

3. Do illustrator email you with a sample and links to their portfolio?

Yes, illustrators are encouraged to reach out with their samples. A link to their portfolio is the best; most of my colleagues and I bookmark portfolios of artists that we are interested in working with and share links all the time.

4. In this digital world, do you feel there is still a place for marketing post cards?

Personally, I still love getting postcards in the mail. If something grabs my eyes, holding this piece in my hands will most likely prompt me to lookup the artist online and see more of their work. It’s a great tool for discovering new people. However, I understand that it could become a financial and even an environmental burden (we have to save the trees!). Like with everything in life, I believe in moderation and balance, sending seasonal mailers and follow up with online updates seems to be a good combination.

5. Do illustrators need an artist rep or agent to go forward at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR?

No, they do not. We work with many authors and artists that are not represented by agents. For the most part, agents and artists’ reps bring years of experience to the table, which can help facilitate things, but it’s not required for an artist or author to have one.

6. What type of illustrations catch your eye? Do you lean more toward the colorful? The comic strip look? Etc.

I like to believe that I’m very eclectic when it comes to the arts. I can love an illustration that has all the colors of the rainbow as much as I can love a black and white one. For me is all about how the art enhances the concept of the story, how it brings the text to life and then some. I can’t resist a picture book where the art fills-in the gaps that you didn’t even know existed in the story.

7. What is the best path an illustrator can take to get your attention?

As I mentioned before, I like receiving mailers because emails can sometimes get lost in cyberspace. Some of the artists I’ve worked with have electronic newsletters that you can opt-in and they will send out seasonal/monthly updates, those are great too.


Remember: Sharismar will be working with illustrators during the industry’s leading online children’s book illustration course – Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books Course – starting September 25th. Click Here for Details. $100.00 discount goes to September 5th.

Talk tomorrow,


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