Author & Artist Corner: Artist

Emily Fiegenschuh: Star Shard

Emily Fiegenschuh

Emily Fiegenschuh's art career began at a very young age when she set up a card table in the hallway of her home and sold her drawings of monsters and animals to family members for five and ten cents. Later (much later), with support from said family members, she attended art school at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and graduated with honors and a BFA from the Illustration program in 2001. After working for one year as a product designer at The Franklin Mint, Emily returned to her childhood dreams of creating creatures and characters when she began freelancing for Wizards of the Coast. Emily has done illustrations for numerous Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, including Monster Manual II, Ghostwalk, and Races of the Dragon. Emily's illustrations can also be seen on the covers and interiors of the Mirrorstone young adult novel series Knights of the Silver Dragon, and in the New York Times bestseller A Practical Guide to Dragons, also published by Mirrorstone. She is currently illustrating the original fantasy series "The Star Shard" for Cricket.

Emily and her husband, Vinod, with their favorite pig In her spare time, Emily enjoys sculpting. She lives with her husband, Vinod, in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, where she can be found playing video games for too long on breaks, baking cookies at 1:00 a.m., or talking to her guinea pigs Cedric, Mims, Momji, Chester, and Peppi.

"I'm thrilled to be illustrating 'The Star Shard,'" says Emily, "and I'm really looking forward to hearing comments and questions about the illustrations from Cricket readers. I sketched many ideas for the characters of Cymbril, Rompol, Loric, and Urrt. You can see some of my sketches by clicking below, along with parts of the e-mails I sent explaining my ideas to the Cricket art director. I tried to include ideas for any important accessories on each page of characters, such as Cymbril's hairpin and Rombol's goose-headed cane. I hope you like the designs, and I can't wait to hear your comments! I had so much fun doing all of these drawings!"

Click below to see Emily's instructions for HOW TO DRAW the characters from "The Star Shard."



Click below to see Emily's sketches for "The Star Shard."


Dear McLenn,

Thanks for your comments!  It really can be tricky to draw a boy with long hair and make sure he doesn't get confused for a girl.  I'm glad you liked the final choice.  I did, too!


Thank you very much for your compliments on A Practical Guide to Dragons!  It seems to be very popular.   I'm not sure which dragon poses are easier for me.  Hmmmm...
One thing about flying poses is that you can have the dragon doing almost anything; doing a backflip, diving fast, flapping its wings, gliding, etc.  That makes it fun.  I'm not sure which are more difficult for me.  I think for me it depends on what the dragon is doing, and, like you mentioned, what type of dragon it is.  One thing I can tell you that I do find very tricky to draw sometimes is the wings!  Figuring out how they fold can be a little confusing.


Just keep practicing!  I'm sure you can draw some excellent dragons! 

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, age 29, Wisconsin
(June 26, 2008 - 8:31 am)

I am a huge fan of your drawings! I am a doodler, but am never very serious about drawing. How did you end up working with Mr. Durbin? I have a feeling I would love your other illustrations. My favorite character is definetly Loric. Did you design him completly or did Mr. Durbin give you a description to work around? You are incredibly lucky to be working with everyone at Cricket!


~Interested and Fantasy-tastic

submitted by Interested
(June 28, 2008 - 11:11 am)

Dear Interested and Fantasy-tastic,

Thanks for writing and for your compliments!  You're right, I am lucky and happy to be illustrating for Cricket, and on an especially great story, too!  The art director, editor, and designer are wonderful to work with, and each time I correspond with them I am reminded of how much I enjoy the project.

In my experience, and I think it is often true for most publications, artists are contacted by art directors working for a publisher rather than the authors themselves.  The art director looks for an artist they think would make a good match for the tone of the story, someone they think will depict the characters and themes well.   It's a bonus when the author is pleased with the way your illustrations have turned out!

I found myself working on "The Star Shard" when I received a call from the art director about the project.  My first job for Cricket appeared in the November 2007 issue for the story "To Save a Kingdom."  It featured a full page image of a purple dragon.  Since much of my work is fantasy related, and because we had worked together before, the art director felt I would be a good match for "The Star Shard".  I was really excited when she described the story to me, and after I happily agreed to take on the project, she sent me a copy of the original manuscript.  It was so engrossing I flew through it!

Since I got a chance to read the story beforehand, I had all of the characters' descriptions at my disposal for coming up with their design.  I tried to put down on paper what I had imagined in my mind about the way each character looked, sounded and moved as I read the story.  Every reader will have their own interpretation of the characters and events in a story, so I tried to keep faithful to the text while exploring what I saw in my mind's eye.  It's always important to me when drawing characters to try to show their personality and attitude so that even a simple sketch conveys as much as possible about them.   I tried to pay special attention to the clothing each character wears as well.  I really loved the description of Loric's leaf-like boots! 

After having said all that, with Loric, I did a wide range of sketches for his face and hair before I decided on the one I liked best.  My goal was to try to capture his beautiful features, especially his luminous eyes and silvery hair. Since so many of the people in the book are enchanted by his looks, I wanted his facial features to look very different from those of the other characters.  I'm so pleased to hear that so many of you like the way I interpreted Loric's character!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, age 29, Wisconsin
(July 10, 2008 - 7:42 am)

I'm just curious; how was art school? I'd like to be an illustrator and author, so I'm curious.

submitted by DolphinGirl13
(June 29, 2008 - 5:03 pm)

Hi DolphinGirl13!

Thanks for your question!

I really enjoyed my time at art school.  Like any "regular" college, each school is very different and some schools have a special focus on certain majors more than others.  The most popular majors when I attended Ringling College of Art and Design were Computer Animation and Illustration.  Majors common to art school include Animation, Illustration, Fine Arts, Photography, Graphic Design, Sculpture, etc.  I didn't have the chance to try it, but now many schools, including Ringling, even offer majors  for video game art and design!

There are many different classes offered at art school, all tailored to your specific major.  At Ringling, every student's first year included the basics of drawing the human figure, color and design theory, and art history.  The other classes I took as the years went on were oil painting, figure painting, more figure drawing (very important!), children's book illustration, sculpture....the list of available classes goes on and on. 

Art school can be very exciting, but it is also a lot of hard work!  There are often many assignments to juggle all at once for each class.  I had a lot of late nights when I was in school!  Despite the fact the schedule can be very demanding, it's worth it if you want to make art your career.

The most important thing if you want to become an artist, whether you choose to go to an art school or to an art program at a traditional college, is to draw, draw, draw!  Practice and passion for your art will be the thing that will take you places.

If I didn't give you the answers you were looking for, or if you have any other specific questions about what art school is like, please don't hesitate to ask.  I would be happy to answer them!

Good luck with your art and writing!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, age 29, Wisconsin
(July 10, 2008 - 7:45 am)

Thanks for the information; it sounds cool! Just a few more questions: do they teach you a specfic style to draw by? And is there anything, like, bad at art school, I mean in the drawing people section, or do they use wooden dummies instead of people? My parents won't let me go if there is anything like that.

submitted by DolphinGirl13, age 13, NY
(July 15, 2008 - 2:17 pm)

Hi DolphinGirl13,

You're welcome for the info! I'll try to address your other questions the best I can.

I would call "style" an artist's unique vision; the way they interpret the world about them and get it down on the paper. This is something unique to each artist and most of the time it happens naturally over time. Of course, artists are very often influenced by other art and artists they like, and some of the techniques used by those artists can also find their way into someone's style.

At art school, the professors are artists who are either currently doing artwork professionally in addition to teaching, or they have created art professionally in the past. They come from many different backgrounds, so you get a wide range of advice from them on all sorts of things. The art professor's job is to guide you, to introduce you to different art techniques. They help you to see mistakes in your art and show you what you can do to fix them. They also teach you the art "rules" for things like color usage and composition, so that once you fully understand them, you can break them! Picasso, for example, was an artist who knew how to paint realistically, but once he understood how to do that, he moved on to pioneer the abstract art movement known as Cubism.

I think I know what you might be asking about learning to draw the human figure. I am guessing your parents may be concerned about classes using nude models. Well, it is true that in figure drawing classes, most of the time, art students are drawing nude models. Artists have been learning to draw people from nude models for centuries, and it's a standard in college art classes. The reason for this is to gain as much understanding as possible of the human body and how it looks and moves, so that you can apply the information to your art. It is taught just like any other class, and is in no way meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It's simply a way to learn. You have many years to go until you might have to think about taking such a class in college. If you're interested in learning to draw people, I would suggest looking at art centers or schools in your area that might offer figure drawing classes more appropriate for younger aspiring artists, where the students draw clothed models. You can also try drawing people you see in every day life, your parents, friends, people at the park, at school, or wherever!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(July 20, 2008 - 8:41 pm)


I saw the cover for September 2008; it looked like Cymbril on it. Are you doing the cover? That would be really cool! Do you have any tips for an aspiring artist? I really love art, and you draw really well! I really want to be an author and illustrator when I grow up. What's it like to be an illustrator?

submitted by Anonymous
(June 29, 2008 - 7:59 pm)

Hi Anonymous!

You're right!  I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying the preview for September's cover does show Cymbril!  I did paint the cover, and I'm really excited for its release and I hope all of the other "Star Shard" readers will be looking forward to it, too.

Thanks very much for your compliments!  I'm really happy to hear that you love art, and that you're interested in becoming an author and illustrator.  I think the most important piece of advice I can give to anyone interested in becoming an artist is to keep making art, and keep having fun doing it.  I think drawing is a very "use it or lose it" skill.  The more you draw, the more coordinated your hand and eye become together, and the more easily you are able to put the ideas floating around in your head down on paper.  It's a very good idea to not only draw from your imagination, but to draw from real life as well.  Take a sketchbook along with you wherever you go.  If you get an idea suddenly, you can draw it or write it down in your sketchbook.  Drawing people, animals, buildings and any other things you see from day to day in your sketchbook while you're out or at home is excellent practice, and a great way to build up a sort of library of images in your mind.  While it's good to practice everything, it's great to keep on drawing your favorite things.  My favorite things to draw are characters and creatures, and I love to doodle pictures of guinea pigs, so you will find a lot of those in my sketchbook. 

If you keep working hard and practicing, you will get where you want to be.   If you really enjoy making pictures, with whatever medium you choose it might not seem like "practice" at all.

Another great thing to do if you're interested in becoming an artist is also really fun--looking at the work of other artists!  Museums, books and local art galleries are a great way to discover what art and artists you like.  There's a lot to be learned by studying the work of other artists.  You might be inspired to find new ideas in your own artwork!

There are a lot of different paths an artist can take once they decide to make art their career.  Illustration can cross over into many different fields.  As my bio says above, I worked for a little over a year as a product designer in the art studio at The Franklin Mint.  There, I was designing collectibles, but there are also designers for every kind of product imaginable.  Nearly anything you see in a store was designed by an artist!  Illustrators can even work on movies and video games, doing things like designing creatures or drawing storyboards.  Very often, illustrators do what I do and illustrate for books and magazines.  Even within the publishing field, there is a wide range of work for illustrators, from children's picture book illustration to editorial illustration for magazines like Time.

I am a freelance illustrator, which means I work at home, where I have my own studio, and I do jobs for a number of different clients, including Cricket.  I get to make my own hours, which is good, because sometimes I feel like working really late into the night (or should I say into the early morning?) I tend to be a perfectionist, so it can be hard to tear myself away from one painting or drawing to move on to the next one.  Things can get very busy, so despite wanting to spend forever on each image it's always important to at least try to maintain a good schedule!

Good luck with your writing and your art!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, age 29, Wisconsin
(July 10, 2008 - 7:50 am)

Thanks for the advice!

submitted by Anonymous, age 13, NY
(July 15, 2008 - 2:13 pm)

Hi Emily!

I really love your drawings!  You have real talent!

What are your favorite kinds of cookie?  I like chocolate chip, sugar, and cinnamon. 


submitted by Anonymous
(June 30, 2008 - 7:08 pm)


Thanks so much!  I'm glad to hear you like my drawings! 

Let's see....well, I like almost anything with chocolate in it!  My favorites are chocolate chip, peanut butter, and a kind of cookie my Grammie used to make that she called "chocolate pixies."  My family still makes them around the holidays each year.  They're little chocolate cookies that taste almost like a cross between a cookie and a chocolate brownie, and they can be made with vanilla frosting on the top, or rolled with powdered sugar.  They're really good!  Now I'm hungry!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, age 29, Wisconsin
(July 10, 2008 - 7:53 am)

I think your pictures are amazing!  I really like your pictures of Cymbril are gorgeous. I like to draw and bake cookies, too, though I don't think that I could ever bring myself to wake up at 1:00! Have you ever been to Switzerland? My dad is working in Zurich as a guest professor for 6 months! I'm really glad to be here, but learning German is hard! There are great places to sketch here, too. Have you ever heard of the name Agnes?  To me, it seems as if no one ever has!  I can't wait for more of your art!



submitted by Agnes, age 11, Switzerland
(August 5, 2008 - 11:24 am)

Dear Agnes,

I'm very sorry it took so long for me to write to you.  I've been away from home a lot this month and haven't been able to check the comments very often.


Thanks for writing!  Thank you very much for your complements, too! I am glad to hear you're drawing.  (And baking!)  I don't actually wake up to make the cookies that late--I am usually still awake that late!  A lot of other artists I know work late into the night.  Either we're all night owls, or we get so involved in our projects that we don't go to bed when we probably should.  Sometimes I like to bake, even late at night, to take a break.  Baking sweets to give other people, or even just to enjoy myself, is a great stress reliever for me.


Unfortunately, I have never been to Switzerland.  I have traveled all over the United States, but outside of the US, only to Canada and Japan.  I like traveling, though, and hope to add more countries to that list as the years go by.  I bet you're seeing a lot of interesting things and meeting many interesting people in Zurich.  It's excellent that you are finding a lot of things to draw there!  What is your dad a professor of?


Yes, I have heard of the name Agnes!  I am surprised other people aren't familiar with your name.  Although, it's cool to have a unique name!  These days, "Emily" has become very popular.  


Thanks again for writing.  I hope you like Part 4 of "The Star Shard" when it comes out in September.

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(August 25, 2008 - 1:23 pm)

Hello! I just wanted to say I saw saw your art and instantly fell in love with it. I am an aspiring artist, and I hope to draw manga one day. Your works are ispirational to me. Keep making them and good luck!

submitted by Char G., age 12, Somewhere on Ea
(September 2, 2008 - 2:16 pm)