Since 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 many clients including Wizards of the Coast, Inhabit Media, Carus Publishing and IMPACT Books. Her art has appeared in the New York Times Bestsellers A Practical Guide to Dragons and A Practical Guide to Monsters,and 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 prefers the feeling of putting pencil or brush to paper and makes the majority of her work traditionally. Her illustrations are painted with gouache on watercolor paper. In her spare time, Emily enjoys sculpting and experimenting with another artform: vegan baking.
Emily lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Vinod, several guinea pigs, and two rambunctious rabbits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you sell originals?
Yes! Next to each image on my website you may notice the labels “sold” or “for sale.” Next to those marked “for sale,” you will see a link to contact me with inquiries regarding price or anything else you might like to know about the painting. If there is no label, either the painting is not for sale or I haven’t updated its information yet. If you have any other questions about my artwork, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Do you take personal commissions?
Yes! Please contact me to check my availability.
How long have you been drawing?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My parents noticed my interest and enrolled me in my first art class when I was about seven years old. I’ve been drawing ever since.
Did you go to art school?
Yes, I had formal training in art at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in illustration.
How did you begin your illustration career?
I was hired by The Franklin Mint upon graduating from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2001. Not many people are familiar with The Franklin Mint these days, but it was a company that made collectibles: dolls, plates, commemorative coins, sculptures, etc. I was hired as a product designer and worked for a year-and-a-half developing designs for products and packaging until the entire art staff was laid off. My drawings improved greatly at The Franklin Mint because they had to be clean, concise, and easy to understand for the next person down the line.
Being laid off from my first job was discouraging, but I used that time to put together a portfolio to submit to new clients and in 2002 I got my first freelance illustration assignment from Wizards of the Coast. My career in freelance fantasy art had begun!
I have a school assignment/blog/podcast and would like to interview you…
I am happy to answer questions and give interviews when my schedule allows. Some questions may have already been answered in this FAQ. If you’re asking me to appear on a podcast or Skype interview, it depends…I’m sort of shy and prefer doing these sorts of things via text when possible.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Draw all the time. Talent is overrated. What’s most important is practice. Draw from both your imagination and from observation. Find inspiration in many sources so that you don’t become pigeonholed into one way of drawing, painting or seeing. Looking at art by and learning from a wide variety of artists will help prevent creative stagnation. Look up your favorite artist’s favorite artist, or your favorite artist’s teacher. Don’t worry about specifically building your own style. “Style” is a part of you. It develops naturally from within and from the way you interpret the world around you. Instead, focus on the foundations of art: color, light, form, value and line.
How do I go about getting art-related jobs?
There are many different avenues to pursue as an aspiring professional artist. There are different approaches for every industry, but for any industry you have to make potential clients aware you exist. You should have a web presence, preferably a website with your own domain and/or a blog that will easily let you update and share your most recent work. I say your own domain because you never know what might happen to free portfolio websites. Not too long ago, CGHub, a popular portfolio website used mostly by artists in the entertainment industry, suddenly ceased to exist, obliterating from the web the only portfolio many artists had. It’s also a good idea to join and share your work on various social media platforms, but I tend not to follow my own advice in this case...
I recommend researching clients you want to work with to see the type of artwork they typically use and how to get in touch with their art directors. Send out portfolios. These days most artists will submit portfolios digitally, although there are still some publishers that might accept a "real" portfolio sent through the mail. Conventions geared towards the fields you're interested in can be good places to make connections. I've met art directors and editors at conventions that later hired me for work. It's also nice to meet with potential clients face to face.
If you’re trying to decide whether your portfolio is up to snuff, look at what's already out there. See what type of illustrations are printed on book covers or in magazines if you want to do publishing or editorial work, or what concept art from recent video games and movies looks like if you want to get into the entertainment industry. Look critically at your work and see if it measures up to what you've seen. At the same time, try not to judge your own work so harshly that you're too afraid to apply for jobs or ask fellow artists for critiques. Attend conventions and go to portfolio reviews so that you can get critiques directly from art directors. They can tell you whether your work is a match for their product, or, if not, what you can do to improve.
Why do you do fantasy art?
I can’t say why, but I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. At a very young age I was fascinated by dinosaurs. It was amazing to me that they existed. At the same time, I was interested in dragons and other mythological beasts. Maybe, to me, dinosaurs were so strange and awe-inspiring that they were almost like real-life versions of these creatures. In addition to dinosaurs, I was always drawing various animal and monster characters. I was mostly interested in fantastic worlds with creatures and robots. As I grew older, I realized that human characters in the same settings were essential and just as exciting.
Originally, I wanted to be an animator. I loved animation from the time I was young, and once I decided I wanted to be an artist I thought I'd most like to pursue animation. Unfortunately, I was born a little too late. I had wanted to do traditional, hand-drawn animation and computer animation was becoming more prominent when I was entering college. I was enrolled to become a computer animator, but my heart wasn't in it and I changed my major to illustration before my sophomore year of art school. What I really wanted to do was draw! After my stint at The Franklin Mint, I pursued avenues in illustration that would allow me to draw and paint the kind of stuff I was interested in. Gaming art was a great outlet for this type of work, with plenty of opportunity to draw interesting characters and all sorts of creatures. Art aimed at children and young adults affords me similar imaginative freedom.
What materials do you use? What is your artistic process?
I have always been drawing but not always painting. I feel like drawing is my strongest suit as an artist. I chose to start using transparent media because I could keep my drawing intact as I worked and build on top of it. If I lose my drawing I’m in trouble! I find that working transparently and building up layers of paint is most important for my illustrative work – especially for stuff I imagine. I do better with value and rendering with opaque media if there is something right in front of me that I can study, like a figure model or still life.
I do the drawings first (usually in a sketchbook) and then scan them in. I occasionally work digitally at some of the preliminary stages of my illustration process to make adjustments to the scanned drawings. I'll use Photoshop to do things like shrink a head that's too big or alter costume details. Sometimes I will also use Photoshop for color and value studies before moving on to a final illustration. Then I print the finished drawing on watercolor paper using my Epson printer. I can only do this to a maximum size of 13 x 19 inches, so when I want to paint larger I have to transfer the drawing the old-fashioned way with a pencil and light box.
I work in gouache, but I tend to wait to use its opaque capabilities until the last minute. I use it more like watercolor, building the color up in layers. I’ve been working mostly in this fashion in the last couple years vs. earlier in my career. When it's not a vignette or spot illo that requires a white background, I start with a wet-on-wet wash that I try to keep loose and expressive. I drop in color and texture, some of which I usually try to leave as-is in some areas until the end of the painting. I like to try to leave white for the highlights because the white of the paper creates a more luminous quality than using opaque white gouache.
Can you recommend any helpful books?
Here are some of my favorite art instruction and reference books:
•Imaginative Realism and Color and Light by James Gurney
These two are so full of great information they really could be considered art school “textbooks.” I’d highly recommend them both.
•How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema
I grew up using this book. Even if you aren’t necessarily interested in making comics, it has basic, clear information about gesture drawings, proportion, perspective and more. I don’t agree with all of the character design tropes they discuss in the book, but it’s a great “how-to” foundation.
•Any book about animation by Preston Blair, such as Cartoon Animation
When I was a kid, I had a few other books with Preston Blair drawings, but can’t remember what they were called. I first learned how to draw from observation by copying some of Preston Blair’s cartoon characters. If you find one of these books you might recognize his work. I’m not sure if it’s in the public domain now, but it’s frequently plagiarized, especially the buzzard and bulldog characters. I recommend Preston Blair's books for the same reason I do How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way: great info about motion, gesture, and more.
•Cyclopedia Anatomicae by Gyorgy Feher and Andras Szunyoghy
A great reference book for both the human figure and a number of animal species. It’s huge and unwieldy and expensive, but I use it on a regular basis, especially when designing creatures.
•Visualizing Muscles by John Cody, M.D.
This is a unique approach to understanding human anatomy. Musculature has been painted onto a male model who is photographed in many different poses to show how the movement and interaction of muscles appears on the surface of the skin. For each pose you can compare the photos of the model both with and without the painted-on musculature.
•Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck
This book is often recommended as one of the most comprehensive anatomy books geared towards the artist.
Other books I refer to often for reference or inspiration:
•Ethnic Dress by Frances Kennett
This book is full of photos of people from around the world wearing traditional clothing.
•Historic Costume in Pictures by Braun and Schneider
I've read that this book is not entirely historically accurate, but if you aren't a fashion historian and are just looking for interesting clothing styles to use as a jumping off point for your own costume designs, it's a nice reference.
•Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor
I have a number of books about historical weapons and armor. If you're going to make a habit of illustrating within the fantasy genre it's a good idea to get a few. This one contains a good overview of weapons and armor from culture to culture and from prehistoric to modern times.
There are a plethora of art books and artists I could mention in this space, but the list would be too long. My advice on that is to look at what inspires you personally.
All artwork and text on this website is ©Emily Fiegenschuh unless otherwise specified and may not be used or reproduced in any form without the written permission of the copyright owner.