Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 10, 2017

Illustrator Sunday – JE Ryder

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.

Illustrator Samples: JE Ryder

Another week, another wonderful artist! Julie, first of all, I love that your journey as an illustrator started within the magical walls of a library; the library is a very special place for me too. Thanks for lettings us into your story with these three beautiful pieces. I like that they work very well together as a unit while presenting a nice variety of perspectives and angles.

Your first piece has very horizontal landscape, which is appropriate when you are depicting this vast field, but you balanced it very nicely with the upright human figures. I love the orange pumpkins peeking out from the green foliage, especially on the foreground where one gets the chance to see the beautiful leaves in more detail. A really appreciate that instead of concentrating all the kids in one spot, you have spread them around and presented them in different planes, giving the piece energy and a stronger sense of dimension. My only concern here is that I see a lot of characters wearing blue, green and teal, and it feels to me that it is a missed opportunity to make the illustration a bit more colorful. That said, your palette does speak to me of autumn and harvest time, I just wish that the characters, especially you protagonist, will pop more from the scenery.

On your second piece, I’m delighted to see the sort of pattern that you have created with the crisscrossing of the leaves that, as an added bonus, point towards our main character, nicely done! However, I would have liked to see a bit more of the golden tones that you have on the third piece on these leaves. Here, I don’t mind that the boy is wearing blue because the rest of the color palette complements him, making him stand out, and it works great against the orange. I think you can darken the area surrounding the boy and the pumpkin even more, to give them more separation from the background.

The subtle face on the pumpkin is unexpected. I can’t really tell from the previous and the following pieces what role this pumpkin plays in the story but it definitely sparks my curiosity.

I really like the brightness of this piece; it feels very open and light. There is a beautiful, yet subtle, sense of movement and the passing of time that brings to mind an impressionist painting. It’s intriguing to me that your mountains are more massive here but have fewer details than on the first piece, where they were further back into the background. If you were to revisit this piece, I’d suggest adding a bit more volume to the mountains, maybe using some of the technique you applied on the bottom half of this piece, so that they appear less flat.

Another aspect of this piece that I enjoyed was the angles you used in your composition. I’m torn between wanting the boy and the pumpkin to occupy more of the dirt path—so that these angles point more towards them—and leaving the piece as is, because it gives you the impression of the kid just coming out from the field.

Now, what it is for sure is that this is a very special pumpkin and I’m sure the readers will devour this story with gusto. Thanks again, Julie!


Julie is an author/illustrator living in Colorado Springs.  Most people have a moment where they realize what they want to do in life.  Here is mine… I worked as an elementary school librarian in my early thirties, it was a fluke that I was hired.  The job originally went to a woman with 2 master’s degrees.  She lasted 2 weeks realizing that “kids” weren’t her thing.  Therefore, the job went to me, I had never worked in a library before.  I loved working with children and I loved education, but I had no idea what to do.  I started by shelving books.  I will never forget that moment.  I glanced quickly at the author’s name, filed the book in its correct spot on the shelf, then another, and another…then something caught my eye.  It was an illustration.  I had to get these books shelved in a timely manner…but, I couldn’t resist the urge to turn the page.  I opened it and before me was a world of beautiful art and words. The artwork was magical and sophisticated!  Words danced and spun around the art to create a fully encompassing experience.  At that moment, I knew I had found a place for my wandering soul to land. I knew I would be an author/illustrator.


Sharismar, thank you for sharing your expertise with us. I enjoyed Julie’s artwork and hearing your thoughts.


Opportunity: 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.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such a beautiful set of illustrations, Julie!! I do love the interesting angles on that third one, too. And the wide spread of the entire pumpkin patch is amazing! Can’t wait to see the finished book one day… And thank you, Sharismar, for sharing your thoughts!


  2. Julie, your watercolors are beautiful and Sharismar, this kind of critique is SO informative!

    Kathy, I love the addition of this “illustration critique” feature on your blog. WONderful! 😀


  3. They are beautiful! Thanks for sharing 🙂


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