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."


Hello Char G.

Thank you so much!  One of the best things an artist can ever hear is that their work has inspired someone.  I'm very happy to hear from people who are on the same path of artistic discovery.  


It's also cool to hear that you're interested in drawing manga.  Manga and comics in general were a big influence on my work.  I still read them.  Sequential art, of which manga and comics are a part, is very unique because it tells a story like no other medium can.   There is something special happening with the combination of drawings and words and in the "time" passing between the panels that makes the story spring to life.  Have you ever read "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud?  It's a great book all about the art form, and is very fun to read, because it's told in comic form!

Keep working at it!  With time and dedication, you can reach your dreams with your artwork!

Best wishes!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(September 5, 2008 - 9:38 am)

Dear Emily,

I love your story so much (my mom is typing this for me).  We read all the parts together, and I LOVE to see the pictures so much!  Cymbril has pretty hair, and I saw her ears are almost pointed in one picture.  It was a clue. She has very pretty dresses, and you draw them so nice.  I love her red dress when Urrt sits her up on his arm.  You are doing a very good job; thank you for your pretty pictures.  The kitty cats on the Rake are my favorite.  I love your guinea pigs, too.  What are their names?  I will draw you a picture of the cats and send it to you at Cricket, okay? 


submitted by Aria, age 4 1/2, Pennsylvania
(October 10, 2008 - 12:04 pm)

Dear Aria,

Thanks so much to you (and your mom) for writing!  I am so glad you like "The Star Shard"!  Have you written to Mr. Durbin, the author, yet?  

 I'm so pleased to hear you love the pictures.  I have a lot of fun painting them, so I always hope that readers get the same enjoyment out of looking at them.  I'm glad you like Cymbril, and all of her dresses.  She has so many, I get to try new ideas with each one.  I like all of the Thunder Rake cats, too.

 I'm really happy you love our guinea pigs!  I love them very much, too.  We have five guinea pigs, and their names are Momiji, Patty, Cedric, Rufio, and Frances.  Momiji and Patty are our two girls.  They're roommates and they live separately from the boys.  Rufio and Frances are very best friends and love playing together.  Rufio is much bigger than Frances, who is a little small for his age.  It's very funny to see them together!  Cedric is a little grumpy and picky about his friends, so he lives alone right now until we can adopt the right friend for him.  My husband and I also work to help rescue homeless guinea pigs.  We volunteer with a local rescue and are foster guinea pig parents.  We take care of them until they can be adopted into a new, forever home.  Right now we have two foster guinea pigs named Nicky and Olivia.  Thanks for letting me talk about all of our little friends.  They're very special to us!

I would love to see your drawing of the cats!

Best wishes to you!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(October 14, 2008 - 12:27 pm)

Dear Emily,

You have a pretty name.  Thank you for writing me back.  I made a picture today of the two cats and I am going to mail them to you at Cricket

Thanks for telling me about your guinea pigs.  Do they live in little houses?  There are two girls together and two boys together and two guests visitin, right?  The one grumpy one who lives by himself might need a wife guinea pig to make him happy. I wish I could meet your guinea pigs; they are so sweet. I like all the names of them. 

Do you like my name?  Bye-bye 

Love, Aria 


submitted by Aria (and my mom), age 4 1/2, Hershey PA
(October 18, 2008 - 6:02 pm)

Hi Aria!

Your name is very beautiful! 

I noticed you are from Hershey!  My Mom grew up in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, about a half-hour drive away.  When my sister and I were little, my Grandma and Grandpa used to take us to Hershey Park when we were in town, visiting.  I used to love the Chocolate World ride!

I'm really excited to see your drawing of the cats!  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's "Star Shard" art when it's posted.

I wish there was somewhere I could post more pictures of our guinea pigs.  I don't even have them all on my Web site yet, but I hope to add them someday.  The guinea pigs all live in really big, homemade cages.  We make sure each guinea pig has a space in its cage to hide or lie down.  We give them things like wooden houses, plastic "Pigloos" that look like an igloo in different colors, and even small, soft beds like a dog might have, or little sleeping bag "cozies" made of fleece if they want to snuggle someplace warm.  We mix and match them in each cage so they can decide where they want to sleep.

Thank you for your suggestion for grumpy Cedric!  :)  We have been thinking that maybe if a baby boy guinea pig comes into the rescue needing a home, that maybe Cedric would like to be friends.  Sometimes the older guinea pigs like to feel like they're in charge, and will get along best with a smaller guinea pig.  They sometimes act kind of like a mom or dad to the baby, even if they aren't the real mom or dad.  Rufio was introduced to Frances when Frances was a baby, and Rufio seems to think he is Frances's big brother.  

Thanks to you for writing back, too!  


submitted by Emily F., WI
(October 21, 2008 - 3:39 pm)

Dear Emily,

I love the chocolate world ride too! Did they have the giant cocoa bean and you could get baked in the hot toaster-tunnel? Do you love the singing cows?

I will finish my cat picture soon and send it okay. I would love to see your pictures of all your guinea pigs someday. I hope you find a baby brother for Cedric--and a wife. The pigloos sound so wonderful and cozy! It is nice that you made big cages for them.

I like your pictures of cymbril and her giant friend!

Love, Aria

submitted by Aria, age 4 1/2, Hershey World
(October 24, 2008 - 11:03 am)

Dear Aria,

It's been so long since I've been to Hershey, I bet they have changed a few things, so I don't remember the singing cows.  I do remember the hot "oven" though! That was my favorite part!

Best wishes!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(October 31, 2008 - 1:47 pm)

Dear Emily,

I really like your illustrations. I love drawing and then painting my work in watercolor, and I wish I was as good as you! What's it like illustrating a story? I've always wanted to do something like that. Mostly it ends up as fan art that sits around on my desk... How long does it take to make one picture? I know you do multiple sketches, and then you paint it, so how long does that take? Seems like it would be a long time.

Who is your favorite character in The Star Shard? Mine is Loric, but I think Cymbril is cool, too. I really like all the dresses she wears. They look awesome, and I think you do a good job with them. I can't wait for the next section!

Also, how old is Cymbril? I thought she was somewhere between 10 and 12, but I may be wrong. 

submitted by Laura, age 11, Alaska
(October 16, 2008 - 1:06 pm)

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for writing!  It's so good to hear that you love drawing and painting.  It makes me happy to read so many responses from young people interested in art.

Illustrating stories is not too much different than drawing or painting something as a stand-alone image, or something that just popped into your head.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that the picture itself needs to help tell the story.  It's a good idea to try to tell a story with any picture you create, even if it's just a drawing of a character, standing alone.  It's always good to ask yourself questions like, "Who is this person?  What's her story?  How can I show her personality from the clothing she wears, or from the way she stands?  From the expression on her face?"

Sometimes, illustrations that accompany a story can even cast the story in a slightly different light.  For example, showing the moment right before or right after a scene takes place in the text, rather than the moment we might expect, gives the reader a different perspective.  A famous illustrator, N. C. Wyeth, who illustrated books like Treasure Island, often used unique compositions and painted unexpected moments in the story to show events in a new light, while still being faithful to the words.

While an artist always injects his or her own vision into the work (most often without even realizing it), we also have to be aware of the author's description of places and characters, and make sure that everything works together.  While I like working with my own ideas, too, I enjoy illustrating other people's ideas because I always get a picture in my head of what's being described as I read, and I like to see how it ends up when I put it down on paper.  And I have to admit, sometimes it's nice to have something to work off of, rather than depending on myself for ideas all the time.  It's really tough when I get "artist's block"!  

You seemed interested, so I'll tell you a little bit about my process.  After doing all of the sketches you mentioned, and the art director, designer, and editor pick one they like, I decide what size I want to paint the image.  I almost always paint at a larger size than the illustrations are printed in Cricket.  That way, I can get all the details I want into the image, even when they're going to print really small.  I always spend some time researching things I don't have a good mental image of, so I might go to the library and check out books to get inspiration, or browse through the file folders I have filled with photos I've collected online or clipped from magazines.  Often, if I need help drawing a pose, my husband or I will get into that pose and take photo reference.  I have plenty of embarrassing photos!  I usually create a finished drawing at the same size I will be painting. It takes at least several hours to finish the final drawing.  Sometimes it can take a whole day or more if the drawing is complicated or has a lot of characters.   Then, I use my printer to transfer the image onto the watercolor paper, and I start painting!  I use gouache, which is a type of watercolor that can be used both transparently, with washes of color, and opaquely, which means I can mix less water with the paint, and make thicker brushstrokes, covering up what's underneath.  In that way, gouache is similar to oil paint.  With all of those steps, it's hard to figure out how much time I really spend on each illustration, but once I get to the painting stage, it usually takes several days for each finished piece.  

Hmm...I'm not sure who my favorite character in "The Star Shard" is!  I like them all, but I think it might be Urrt!  I really enjoy drawing him, and I like the Armfolk's way of life and the storytelling songs they sing.  I also like Cymbril's independent spirit and struggle within herself about who she is, and her uncertainty about where she belongs.  She's a great character.  I agree with you; I always thought of Cymbril as being about twelve years old, and I tried to draw her to look that age.  

Thanks again for your comments and compliments.  I hope you will keep drawing and painting!  I bet you're doing great, and you will continue to get better and better!


submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(October 21, 2008 - 3:35 pm)

Ooh, so that's what gouache is. I thought was like a sort of watercolor/ink type thing.

My dad's an artist, and he uses oil paint!

submitted by Laura, age 11, Alaska
(October 29, 2008 - 4:50 pm)

Hi Emily,

I wanted to tell you how much I like the artwork you have done for "The Star Shard."  I think you are an amazing artist.  If the story becomes a book, I hope they can use all of your pictures in it.  My favorite character is Loric, and I love the way you draw him. 

I am an artist and I hope that if I practice enough I can have a job someday drawing pictures.  My favorite thing to draw is any character for Star Wars.  I looked at a pose of Anakin to draw Loric for the fan art.  I hope you like it.  I also looked at every picture you drew of him in the magazines and on your site.  I really liked the boots you drew. 

I hope someday I will be as good an artist as you. How long did you have to go to school to study art?


submitted by Ethan, age 11, Pennsylvania
(October 23, 2008 - 7:08 pm)

Dear Ethan,

I saw your "Star Shard" fan art!  Awesome!  I didn't know they were going to post the art so soon!  It's fantastic!  You did a really good job capturing Loric.  I am so impressed by your attention to detail.  You did an excellent job with his costume.  I love how heroic he looks with that sword!  It makes me so happy to see cool art like this.  Thanks for sharing it!  It's wonderful that you're doing art and are hoping to make it a career.  The best thing to do is practice, practice, practice, and it sounds like you are doing that, so you're well on your way.  

Thank you for your compliments on my work.  It's so nice to hear that you like my illustrations enough to see them potentially collected in a future "Star Shard" book.  I would love that, too.  Maybe I can talk to Mr. Durbin, and we can convince his potential publisher to hire me.  That would be cool!  :)

I see that you're a Star Wars fan, from your messages to Mr. Durbin and to me.  One of the first movies I saw when I was little was Return of the Jedi. I saw the old trilogy movies out of order, and I can't remember if I was surprised or not about the secret of Darth Vader's true identity!  I loved the movies as a kid and still like to watch them now.  My husband is a big Star Wars fan, and he used to draw Star Wars characters all the time.  It's great to have that special something that inspires you to be creative.  When I was growing up, I discovered some of my favorite artists through video games, especially some of the older games from the Final Fantasy series.  I used to draw the characters all the time.  That, and the Ninja Turtles.

The art school I went to, Ringling (silly name, I know), was a four-year art school.  Most art schools have four-year programs where you earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in your chosen major, much like the way you would earn a bachelor's degree at a "regular" college.  There are also some schools with two-year programs.  In addition to art schools, there are universities with good art programs, as well as community colleges where you can study art.  Going to art school taught me so much about technique, process, and the business of illustration, but the time spent doing art throughout my life, from a very young age, has probably been the most valuable.  Art is a lifelong learning experience.  I am still learning new things every day!

Best wishes,

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(October 31, 2008 - 2:21 pm)

Hi Emily,

I am glad you like the sword I gave Loric. Thanks for all the advice about being an artist. I will practice a lot! I haven't heard of the Final Fantasy series, I will have to check it out. My best friend loves to draw Ninja Turtles, too! Star Wars is still my favorite, and I like to watch the artist Matt Bush; he uses light and dark in his art and he is really great at it. 

Thanks for writting me back. Good luck with The Star Shard book,


submitted by Ethan, age 11, PA
(November 8, 2008 - 4:04 pm)

Hi Emily,

My note is waaayyyy up there. I hope you can find it...

Love, Aria

submitted by Aria, age 4 1/2, PA
(October 27, 2008 - 10:52 am)


Found it!  It's tough to find some of the messages when there are so many replies.  Thanks for telling me!

submitted by Emily Fiegenschuh, WI
(October 31, 2008 - 1:48 pm)