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. 

Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!! Thank you for drawing and posting Rax on here. I love his picture!

submitted by Will T.
(June 26, 2015 - 10:57 pm)