Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 11, 2022

IIllustrator Saturday – Jui Ishida

Born in Taiwan and raised in Yamaguchi, Japan, illustrator Jui Ishida received her B.F.A. from California’s Art Center College of Design with an honors distinction. The winner of several awards in both illustration and graphic design, Ishida has also gained the appreciation of young fans through her artwork in such books as God Created, by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Yummy Chocolate Bunny, by Jocelyn Jamison, and Sail Away, Little Boat, written by Janet Buell.

Sail Away, Little Boat follows the trip of a little red toy boat as it makes its way from a small brook to a fast-moving river, and eventually down into the open sea. Upon coming ashore, the toy boat is quickly scooped up by three children who make it their own. By book’s end the toy boat is tossing atop a new sea: this time in the bath tub! In her mixed-media illustrations, Ishida utilizes bright colors and a bold, coursing effect that mimics fast-moving water. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly highly praised Ishida’s work in Sail Away, Little Boat, calling her illustrations “cheery” and “stream-lined.” Writing in School Library Journal, Teresa Pfeifer also enjoyed the artist’s work, stating that “Ishida’s brilliantly colored spreads … cast a swirling, whirling spell of balanced design” and provide readers with a “rich visual and aural experience.” “Brilliant colors bring to life stunning art that blends realism with whimsy in joyful reverence to nature’s diversity,” exclaimed a Kirkus Reviews critic in praise of the same work.


After receiving the manuscript for Hello Baby, I’m Your Mom, I work on the sketches on my iPad.  I use the app called Procreate, btw.

After receiving the sketch approval, start adding colors.  I first change my B&W sketch into raw sienna and add some wash as well.

Then I create layers by using a freehand tool to select elements and play with color balance and hue.

The rest is pretty much the same as painting with a brush and paint.  Only the difference is that I can work whenever and wherever.  I actually did most of Hello Baby! artwork in my car while waiting for my daughter’s soccer practice.

Once I’m happy with the image, I Airdrop it on my desktop and see it on a bigger screen to check details.  Make adjustments if necessary.

……and that’s pretty much it.



When did you start illustrating?

I always loved doodling and did some portraits of teachers for my high school yearbook (for free, of course), and I believe that was my very first “mass-produced” illustration.

What was the first art thing that you did where someone paid you?

Besides the silkscreen prints I sold at the student art sale, creating a series of 7 illustrations for Orange County Register was my very first paid job.  The article was about the first World Cup hosted by USA back in 1994.  I got that job when I was an 8th term student at Art Center College of Design.

You were born in Taiwan and immigrated to Japan. Why did your family want to move to Japan?

My Taiwanese father and Japanese mother separated when I was a baby.

My Japanese-born sister (a year older than me) and I were raised by my mother in Japan.

How old were you and how long did you live there?

According to my mother, I was 6-month-old when she decided to move back to Japan, and I was there till graduating from high school.

Was it difficult to immigrate to the US?

It wasn’t my intention to immigrate to the US when I came here to study art.  I met someone in college, and we ended up living together, marrying and having kids.  We’ve been together for 26 years, and our oldest is going to the same college where we met. (Time truly flies!)

Did you live in the US before getting into Art Center College of Design in Pasadena?

My English wasn’t good enough to get into Art Center back then, so I took some ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at Cal State LA’s language program and had to take TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) a few times before being accepted by Art Center.

What made you choose ACCD?

I knew nothing about Art Center, but my Taiwanese father, who was a successful artist and an entrepreneur in Taiwan back in late 80’s, who was completely out of my life till I was about 17, visited me in Japan and dangled the carrot of “the opportunity to study art in America” at me. The offer was hard to resist, and make a long story short, he chose the school for me, and I was fine with that.

What did you think you would do when you graduated?

I did well in school but didn’t have any clear vision for my future.

It was early 90’s, and we were told to go east (New York to be specific) if we wanted to make it as a successful freelance illustrator, but as a foreign student, my time in the US after graduating from school was limited to one year with a special I-20 visa, so I basically followed the wind, took whatever opportunities came to me and tried to enjoy the moment while doing my very best.

Did Art Center College of Design in Pasadena help you find word when you graduated?

*I assume “word” is a typo?

I was lucky enough to get a couple job offers during the on-campus interviews.

One of them was an irresistible offer from Hallmark Cards, Inc.  They created a new position called “Creative Fellowship” to meet my needs.  Though I wasn’t too excited to move to mid-west first, I learned a lot while working for Hallmark, and going there was absolutely THE best decision of my life!

I noticed you won the Omni Award, for Hallmark Cards brochure design. Were you working for Hallmark when you graduated?

As I noted above I took their offer and worked at Hallmark Cards headquarter in Kansas City, MO after graduating from Art Center. I ended up staying there for a year and a half, which was 6-month longer than my original plan, then I moved back to CA to tie the knot with my college sweetheart.

What year did you win the Silver Award in Advertising from the Society of Illustrators in LA?

My goodness……  I had to look for the plaque in my garage to get that info.

It said “West 36” so I assume it was 1997??  It was such a long time ago, and I don’t even remember what artwork I received that award for (LOL)!

Was God Created that came out in 2003 your first illustrated book?

I believe “Yummy Chocolate Bunny” came out before God Created, but I may be wrong.

How did you get that opportunity?

Someone from the publisher (Augsburg Fortress) contacted me via email…..I think.

I was a bit hesitant to take the project at first since I learned that Augsburg Fortress was a very religious publisher (though I have absolutely nothing against Christianity), and I wanted to stay far, far away from any religious projects, but the message through out the book was pretty universal, so I agreed to take the job.

In 2005 you illustrated Sail Away, Little Boat. How did Carolrhoda discover your art?

I have no idea.  Zach Marell, then Creative Director of Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing,  contacted me on this project via email.

While on Amazon, I discovered “WHO SAYS BAA?” Was listed twice – 2004 and 2008. Did you do different illustrations for them?

No.  The project “Who Says Baa?” came from Intervisual Books, Inc., which created and produced a line of pop-up and dimensional novelty books, and it was a touch-and-feel book with special textures built in each spread.  BTW, “Who Says Moo?” was another book I worked on simultaneously.

The one came out in 2008 was the cheaper version of the same book, and I didn’t know anything about it.  It was my then 4-year-old daughter who spotted “mommy’s book” at the dollar section of the local  TARGET when we were shopping!  Since I signed the WFH contract (very reluctantly) for those projects, they had rights to do whatever, but it sure wasn’t a pleasant surprise.

In 2010 you illustrated Somewhere So Sleepy for Golden Books. Did you have an agent at this time?

Carrie Perlow/Das Grüp has been my agent ever since I moved back to CA and started to work as a freelance illustrator.  I met Carrie through Robert Rodriguez and Mike Wepplo, who I met at SILA’s portfolio review.  They were the reviewer/guest artists at the event.

In 2012 you illustrated Good night, laila tov with Random House. How long did they give you to illustrate the book?

Children’s book projects normally have a relaxed schedule (like 6-month to a whole year), but according to the record, I got only less than 4-month to complete this project.

You illustrated The Runner King in 2012. Was this a paperback book?


The Silver Moon: Lullabies and Cradle Songs came out in 2013. Did you play the music from the book for illustrating inspiration?

The music wasn’t provided with the script, and I didn’t know about it till I saw the printed book.

Mr. Prelutsky’s poems were lyrical and inspirational enough for me to create artwork.

Where you excited to illustrate Jane Yolen’s National Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom in 2014?

I was super excited to work again for NG and nerve-wracked at the same time since the original request was over a hundred illustrations in about a year, which I was sure that I couldn’t promise the on-time delivery.  After some adjustments on the contract, it became somewhat doable, but I remember getting lots of help here and there to make it on time.

I just featured Eve Bunting’s  Hello, Baby! I’m Your Mom on Writing and Illustrating. Did you get to interact with Eve on the book?

No. Just like any other book projects that I’ve worked in the past, the creative director of the project, was the only person I communicated while I was working on it.  After the completion of the project, I got the information that Ms. Bunting resided in Pasadena (which actually was a false information!) where my son happens to live now, and it’s only 30 mins from where I live.  I wrote to Ms. Bunting hoping to meet her one day.  My card eventually made it to her in a different part of California, and she wrote me back.

We’ve exchanged emails a few times since then, and I’m very happy that she was excited about “our book”.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own picture book?

Not at this moment.  There’re many things I want to do, but writing stories isn’t one of them.

What do you think was your biggest success?

Hmmmm……  I’m not sure what’s the definition of “big success”, but there were several times during the production of National Geographic Kids Animal Stories that I really thought I wouldn’t be able to finish—but I did.  With lots of help.  For example, my friends helped me with board preparation, underpainting, etc.  Even my then-9-year-old helped me with some board preparation!  So, completing that project without killing myself was a big success——maybe?

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I do lots of Google-search, checking my library, and going though archive to find reference and surround myself with images and colors which I find helpful and inspirational for the project.

Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

I use Photoshop for almost all of my work.

Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes.  Though I stubbornly resisted to go digital for the longest time, I made a complete switch a few years ago.  I used to use 9” refurbished iPad, but my kids thought it was pathetic and got me 12.9” brand new iPad Pro for Christmas.

Would you be willing to work with a self-publisher picture book writer on a project?

It depends.  I’ve been approached by several people who wanted me to illustrate their self-publish picture books, but I’ve turned them all down for different reasons.  Some wanted me to sign WFH contract with super low budget.  Some just didn’t have good stories.

Has any of your work appeared in magazines?

Yes.  Harvard Business, Marriage Partnership, Creative Living, Family Circle Magazine, Washington CEO, TICKER, UIC Alumni, Westway (AAA magazine), Reconnect (Bay Area Magazine), etc.

Do you have a studio in your house?

It’s not much of a “studio”, but yes, I do have a comfortable work space in my house.

Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

Japanese/English electronic dictionary, 0.28 Signo pen, #11 X-Acto knife, Desktop (iMac), etc.

Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I follow my gut and say no to the projects which doesn’t feel right at this point of my life.

Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Exciting or not, I always have a few projects on my plate, and the time-management has been a big issue!

Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?

Yes and no.  Yes, because people from all over the world have contacted me.  No because I’m fully aware that I haven’t utilized it.

What are your career goals?

Being happy and content with everything I create, and help others with my creativity.

What are you working on now?

Putting some work together for a small exhibit in Japan.  Translating some of the books I illustrated in Japanese has been a huge challenge.  I also have a few non-illustration projects on my do-list.

Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips? See my blog, illustration fixation.

Gesso on a cold-press illustration board, textured with a big, coarse brush, applying transparent burnt sienna wash was how I started all my paintings for the longest time.  I haven’t touched those materials since I’ve switched to digital, but I do miss the physicality of those steps.

Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Jui, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Jui using the following links:




Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for sharing Jui’s inspiring work with us, Kathy! A fun, warm, and appealing style.


  2. So colorful and imaginative! Thanks for sharing, Jui and Kathy!


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