Author & Artist Corner: Artist

Emily Fiegenschuh: Crowd Sorcery

Emily Fiegenschu

From a young age Emily Fiegenschuh has been bringing fantasy worlds to life with her pencil. A graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, Emily has illustrated for Wizards of the Coast, Inhabit Media, and IMPACT Books, among others. Her art has appeared in the New York Times bestsellers A Practical Guide to Dragons and A Practical Guide to Monsters, and she has been featured in the fantastic art annuals Spectrum 9 and Spectrum 19. Emily is the author and illustrator of The Explorer’s Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures, a how-to-draw book for creature enthusiasts of all ages.

Emily is stuck in analog mode and prefers the feeling of putting pencil or brush to paper. Her illustrations are painted with gouache on watercolor paper. In her spare time, Emily enjoys sculpting and experimenting with another art form: vegan baking. She lives in Edmonds, Washington, with her husband, Vinod, several guinea pigs, and two rambunctious rabbits. 

Here are some selections from her blog where she posted about Crowd-Sorcery. 

Crowd-Sorcery Character Sketches: Villains

The next group of characters I sketched for Cricket Magazine’s Crowd Sorcery project was the villains. There were dozens of interesting submissions, but my schedule only allowed time to realize a few. Sketching Cricket readers’ characters is a project I would have loved to spend months upon months doing, had I months upon months to do it!

I was so excited about many of these villain characters and was personally rooting for a couple of them to to be chosen when the time came to cast votes for the antagonist that would appear in the story. Alas, some of my favorites did not come out on top, but at least I got to draw them. (And regardless of whether they “won” or not, their creators should be proud to have brought them to life.)

Aciere Steele comes from a world with a magic vs. technology theme. I really wanted to draw Aciere Steele! I drew a bunch of heads, but I felt compelled to move onto a detailed drawing, because she’s essentially a steampunk cyborg and how could I not draw a steampunk cyborg? I so badly wanted to make sure I finished the drawing that I took it with me on vacation and worked on it late at night in our hotel. A good friend we were visiting whom I hadn’t seen in years even came with us while I took a terrible scan of the drawing at FedEx/Kinko’s! Luckily, I was able to scan it again when I got home, and the high-res version made it into the magazine. Whew!


The aforementioned heads, including various hairstyle and lab coat ideas.


Even though I love sci-fi stuff, I don’t draw it often, so I was a bit nervous about my ability to design some cool robotic parts that didn’t look like “traditional” Victorian Era style steampunk. I was aiming for a more broadly defined fantasy version of steampunk that also wasn’t too high-tech. I hope I succeeded.



The finished drawing of Aciere.


Margaret O’Shanahan, the defiant pirate with an enchanted ship that can soar through the sky, took second place in the villains poll.

Yet more portrait sketches, with what I considered to be the final designs at the bottom.


There were quite a few animal characters submitted in all categories. There were several I liked and I wanted to make sure I drew at least one of them.

The final villains page as it appeared in Cricket Magazine.




Crowd Sorcery Character Sketches: Heroes and Heroines

Earlier this summer, while readers were still generating scores of amazing characters for Cricket Magazine’s Crowd Sorcery project, I shared one set of sketches I had done of a submitted character: a young girl named Minna of Afting, who was raised by gigantic birds.

Now that Frederic S. Durbin’s Crowd Sorcery story “The Girl Who Writes the Future” has begun and many of the character submissions have been published, I thought I’d share all of my sketches.

First up are the heroes and heroines. Brief summaries of their background or abilities can be found in the image of the Cricket spread at the bottom of this post. Many kids wrote fascinating paragraphs-long biographies describing their character’s personality, background, talents, fears and hopes.

Any time I begin a character design I start with the face. If I don’t get the face “right,” meaning a look that matches the character’s essence as I see it in my mind, I can’t convince myself to move on with the design. Sometimes it took me a while to get a face or expression that felt correct to me, so given my time constraints some characters did not progress past portrait sketches.

Fionn Pierre Nelson was the last character I worked on in this set, so I only completed a few face sketches.


Listette takes on the familiar “raised by animals” theme. I wanted her to have somewhat sharp, angular features, and I carried that through to her hair. Her creator described her as wearing wolfskin, so I included a few very rough doodles of costume ideas. It was hard not to be influenced a little by San from Princess Mononoke, but I tried to avoid doing anything too similar. 

When I read Listette’s description, I was reminded of this illustration by Arthur Rackham.


Will Gust is a fun and lively character that I was sorry I didn’t have time to develop further. I guess I actually felt that way about all of the characters. If I had my way, I would have liked to make something like a model sheet for all of them.

I’ll tell you a secret...the drawing at the upper right corner is actually of Detective Tim Bayliss.


When I turned the drawings over to my art director, I indicated a couple of my favorites of each bunch and she picked from those for the print edition of the magazine.

The spread as it appeared in the July/August issue of Cricket.


Crowd Sorcery Character Sketches: Sidekicks

The last few characters I sketched for Cricket Magazine’s Crowd Sorcery project were sidekicks. Once again there were some wonderful submissions, but I was only able to illustrate two. Space was also needed in the double-page spread for drawings of Fantasy Dictionary words, which I’ll share in my next post.

Kitara is described as a descendent of Medusa who has a deadly crimson eye that turns people to stone when she looks at them. 

I did a a quick sketch of her face and was satisfied with the first one.


The creator of Rax wonderfully conveyed his dashing personality in a brief story paragraph written as part of Crowd Sorcery’s character creation exercise. It was (almost) easy to transform him from that vivid first impression into a tangible drawing.

Rax is a confident young swordsman who can talk to dragons.


I wanted to vary the illustrations that would be published in this issue, so I decided to submit at least one complete sketch as opposed to a bunch of loose sketches of faces. Luckily, I only needed one or two quick development sketches of Rax’s face before I was happy with it, but I did play with a couple different hairstyles on a piece of tracing paper. This drawing isn’t as clean as the one I posted of Aciere Steele last week, but I like the gesture and the balance between rough and polished lines.


Crowd Sorcery Sketches: Fantasy Dictionary

And now for something completely different – the Crowd Sorcery Fantasy Dictionary.

In addition to characters, readers participating in the Crowd Sorcery project were encouraged to submit ideas for a Fantasy Dictionary: objects, places, creatures, concepts, and expressions that could be used in a fantasy story. The kids were inventive – some even came up with insults in an imaginary language!

Since it’s harder to convey something intangible like a concept or slang with simple sketches, for this round I decided to focus on drawing objects. I approached the sketches as though I had been asked to design item icons for a role-playing game.


Senwilke: A warm drink which gives whoever sips it the power to fly.

Since the drink itself probably looks ordinary, I used the vessel it would be served in to communicate its magical properties.


Sesf: An ember used by water people to make fire in water with magic.

I pictured the sesf enclosed in a bubble that would be undisturbed by any water that surrounded it.

The sidekicks and fantasy items as seen in Cricket’s October 2014 issue.


Crowd Sorcery Sketches: Final Characters

Within each page of Cricket’s Crowd Sorcery character spreads was the name of a character who would eventually appear in the story “The Girl Who Writes the Future.” Coincidentally, I didn’t happen to draw any of the winning characters until after they were chosen. Did you guess which characters made it into the story?

Even though the sketches of these characters would not be printed in Cricket, I wanted to carefully develop each one since I knew I would be painting them many times throughout the course of the story. As I mentioned in my first Crowd Sorcery characters post, taking the time to sketch each character also helps me understand who they are – what type of clothing they might wear, their mannerisms, how they might react to a challenge, etc. – all of which help create engaging illustrations by including subtle cues the viewer can pick up on and then, in turn, develop their own understanding of the characters. I’ve referred to my pages of drawings each time I’ve started working on a new chapter of “The Girl Who Writes the Future,” so the preliminary development work definitely came in handy!


The Heroine: Fable Thatcher

Created by Madeline T., age 13

“Many people would call it a gift to write as well as Fable. To her, it is a curse. Whatever she writes becomes true.”

Subtle variations in the search for Fable.

Fable has an amazing talent, but it’s one she doesn’t think she wants. Because she fears her mysterious ability I wanted to draw a girl that looks smart and empathetic but reserved and unsure of herself. It took a while for me to nail down exactly what felt right about Fable, including the combination of her facial features and expression. The little asterisks indicated to my art director the sketches I felt were going in the right direction. 


The Sidekick: Araceli Luminè

Created by “Katniss Everdeen,” age 14

“The only child of the mysterious Booksmith, she is raised by the Silent Sisters in the library and holds in her possession the Book of Shadows, which has the power to control all knowledge ever written.” 

She has a little bit of that “goth” vibe...


The image says it all: it did not take me long to develop Araceli Luminè.  Luminè’s creator gave us a vivid, detailed description of the character and she quickly emerged from the shadows of my imagination.

My “model sheet,” referred to many times while illustrating the story.


The Villain: Khaos

Created by Brooke E., age 11

“The spirit of a wicked sorcerer who was killed in a huge battle that wiped out his monsters, he lives in a huge, ancient cave—a shrine for worshipping Mael-Koth, the pagan god of death.” 

Khaos can take on many forms. So far I’ve only depicted him as a shadowy figure. I don’t want to spoil his appearance before his true form is revealed in the story. For now, he is hidden, even from me!

“The Girl Who Writes the Future” by Frederic S. Durbin is currently being published in Cricket Magazine. To follow the adventures of these characters, pick up some issues at the bookstore or see the instructions for downloading the digital editions here. 

Hi I really love your crowd sorcery. I do some of my own. I love drawing. Drawing is my life.

submitted by Ava , age 10, PA
(February 6, 2015 - 8:37 pm)

Thank you, Ava!

I'm glad to hear you've also been drawing some characters and that you love to draw so much. I hope you'll keep it up!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 8, 2015 - 3:47 am)

Are you going to talk about the heros and heroines you sketched?

submitted by Crowd Sorcerer
(February 14, 2015 - 9:54 pm)

Hi Crowd Sorcerer,

Is there anything about the characters that I didn't discuss above that you would like to know more about?


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 8, 2015 - 3:46 am)

Wow ! You're a really good drawer. I try to draw the villains from crowd sorcery but I think they are terrible.

submitted by Loretta R., age 9, Cincinati,Oh
(April 3, 2015 - 12:43 pm)

Hi Loretta R.,

Thank you for the compliments on my drawings. Becoming good at drawing – or anything, really – just takes lots and lots of practice.

I'm sure that your drawings are not terrible! Please don't be so hard on yourself. I hope you won't be discouraged from drawing and that if you enjoy it, you'll keep going. With practice you will get better and better!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 8, 2015 - 3:52 am)

Hi everyone! (Or should I say Everybuggy?)

I had a wonderful time working on Crowd Sorcery! Thanks again to all of you for submitting your characters and ideas to help make "The Girl Who Writes the Future" come to life. 

The text and images you see above come from posts I have been making to my blog in recent months about my contribution to the character development for Crowd Sorcery/"The Girl Who Writes the Future." There is still at least one more post to come, and once I finish it, it should be added to the rest here at the Chatterbox.

I look forward to answering any questions you might have about the characters, the illustrations published in Cricket, or any general art-related stuff you might like to know more about!





submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 8, 2015 - 3:44 am)

You drew Khaos. AWESOMESAUCE! Guess what else is AWESOMESAUCE? THE STORY!

(hugs) Laughing

(Khaos read the story and is mad now, since he's been defeated. He loved the picture, though!) 

submitted by Brookeira
(May 11, 2015 - 4:22 pm)

Hi Brookeira,

I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the story and the illustrations, and I'm sure Fred is, too! Thank you for participating in Crowd Sorcery!

Khaos still must have some power wherever he was banished to if he can read Cricket from there!WinkI hope Fable and Lumine will stay on guard.

I'm glad to hear he loved his portrait made by an artist from another realm. Not sure if I would want him to be mad at me . . .


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 18, 2015 - 9:31 pm)

I love the illustrations! I so wish I had any kind of talent in drawing. Alas.

However, I wondered if you did any rough sketches for my heroine, Rilla Tindell. It would be so cool to know how a real artist would depict her.

submitted by Everinne, age 16
(May 15, 2015 - 7:24 pm)

Hi Everinne,

Thanks so much for reading the story and participating in Crowd Sorcery!

I'm sorry to say I didn't have time to sketch Rilla Tindell, but I remember her well. I like that she's a heroine with flaws, which makes her seem like a real person. The "Crowd Sorcery" sentence you wrote hinted at an intriguing storylne for Rilla. Have you considered writing your own story about her?

I loved so many of the characters and could not get to them all during the project. I was so inspired by everyone's creativity that I really enjoyed working on the sketches. It's possible I might draw more in the future, just for fun. If that happens I will be sure to give credit to the creators and I'll let the Chatterbox admins know and see if they can post them here.

Thanks for writing!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(May 18, 2015 - 10:04 pm)

Hey, Emily! I was wondering, how could I get onto your blog? I would love to read your other posts, because you are really interesting! Is it on Blogspot or is its own website?

submitted by Ellie, age 12, Place of blogs
(May 29, 2015 - 11:40 am)

Hi Ellie,

Thanks for writing! I’d love to share my blog with you. Links aren’t allowed on the Chatterbox, so I can’t post it here. But it’s easy to get to if you google my name. The blog is called Fabled Earth. It is on Blogspot and the last time I checked it comes up as the third result on Google. (The first two links are to my website.)

I try to keep my content appropriate for all ages (the posts shared on the Chatterbox above are typical of my blog posts) but because there are also links to other places on my site, please check with your parent or guardian if you aren’t sure you want to visit them.

Best wishes,


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(June 1, 2015 - 2:11 pm)

Oh, and I know this is pretty embarrassing and kind of rude, but how do you pronounce your last name? I'm so sorry. It's just that I've been trying to sound it out for around a year and still don't know if I have it right! I'm sorry, I just really want know!

submitted by Ellie, age 12, Place of illustators
(May 31, 2015 - 6:51 pm)

Don’t worry –– it’s not rude at all to ask about my name.
It’s actually very easy to pronounce once you know how. It sounds like “Fig-In-Shoe!”


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, Edmonds, WA
(June 1, 2015 - 2:12 pm)