An Interview with Art Director Sharismar Rodriguez

The Marvelous Midwest Conference is just a few weeks away. Registration is full, but luckily another member of the faculty has agreed to be interviewed for our blog. Today we welcome Sharismar Rodriguez. 

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Sharismar Rodriguez is an Associate Art Director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books
for Young Readers where she designs and art directs children’s books for all ages, from
Picture Books, Middle Grade and YA novels to 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 noteworthy titles such as New York
Times bestseller Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illustrated by Jaime Zollars; Bridget Heos’s Mustache Baby series, illustrated by Joy Ang; Maybe Something Beautiful, an ALA Notable Children’s Book recipient, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez; among many others.

In your intensive, “The Picture Book: A Puzzle–How To Put the Pieces Together To Create Your Picture Book Dummy” you plan to discuss good storytelling. How does that apply to visual art?

As a picture book artist you have the task to depict the written words in a compelling way that excites and motivates the reader to turn the pages. However, a manuscript is only the beginning of the visual storytelling, you must use your creativity to add layers of interest and information. The less “clues” about the characters and settings the text gives you, the more opportunities you have to create a parallel story with your art.

In the intensive, we’ll explore ways to enhance the experience of your picture book from choosing the right format, thinking about your characters in different ways, how to achieve a successful arc, among other concepts. 

You worked on the book Maybe Something Beautiful. In it, art transforms a neighborhood. Can you talk more about the power of art?

Art is ideas that are transmitted in different shapes and forms that connect with us on a human level, whether it’s a poem written on a napkin, a masterful symphony, a mural in a busy city street or simply a stick figure next to the words I love you. To me, art is everything and anything that moves us and makes us feel something.

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Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, is based on the true story of Candice and Rafael Lopez, a Graphic Designer and an Artist respectively, who had a vision not only to bring beauty through art to their neighborhood but to bring a community together and uplift it. I believe there’s an artist in each and every one of us and we all have the responsibility to use the power of art to create positive changes.

As art director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, what’s your favorite part of your job?

I’m lucky to work on a wide range of projects, many times in collaboration with outstanding illustrators and designers; I art direct and design covers and interiors for YA and Middle Grade novels, I also work on Non-fiction books and Early Readers, but nothing gives me more pleasure than working on Picture Books. 

As you can see from the title of my intensive, to me Picture Books are big puzzles that need to be solved and completed in a timely manner. The pieces are supplied by writers and illustrators, and with wise editors by my side, we start shaping the story and making sure each piece fits with the next.

The picture book is a complex object because it is a blend of literature and art that also has to be commercial and accessible to its audience, and striking the right balance is the ultimate goal. There’s no denying that everyone wants to be the next best-seller, but there’s something very gratifying to know you had a part in books that change and transform young lives for the best. 

Many thanks for this opportunity.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights. We look forward to hearing more from you in May!


jane-kelley-copy-26.jpgJane Kelley is the blog editor for SCBWI-WI. She is the author of many middle-grade novels, including The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, which was honored by the CCBC in 2014. Her most recent work is the chapter book series, The Escapades of Clint McCool. For more information, see http://janekelleybooks.com

2 thoughts on “An Interview with Art Director Sharismar Rodriguez

  1. What an outstanding interview!
    I’m a frustrated illustrator and appreciate the vote of confidence in saying that there is an artist in each of us. I find mine by recognizing the amazing talent and craft in art, especially in picture books, from conception to ultimate design. What a terrific opportunity this intensive provides.

    Like

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