Guest Blog: Emily Fiegenschuh’s Top Ten Influential Artists

Today we have a guest post from IMPACT author and artist Emily Fiegenschuh. Emily has been generous enough to provide her top ten artistic inspirations. Read on, below!

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Top Ten Inspirational Artists
No artist is a blank slate, approaching their craft alone. We bring a little bit of ourselves to each image: our life experiences, our hopes, our feelings on a particular day and, of course, things we have learned from our artistic idols. This list is my attempt to narrow down a vast group of my favorite artists into a Top Ten of those that have been among my most important influences.

Many of the artists on this list do not have their own official websites, so I had to rely on Wikipedia and fan sites to share images and links to additional information on their lives and careers. (Click on their names to be taken to external sites.)

Yoshitaka Amano
Amano’s name was the first I wrote down when beginning this Top Ten list. I discovered Amano’s work through the Final Fantasy video game series on NES and SNES. I pored over the Nintendo Power magazines and Final Fantasy strategy guides I bought to collect his images of heroic characters, bizarre creatures and fanciful technology. Amano’s confident-but-sensitive use of line, bold patterns and color was unlike anything else I had seen. It sparked my imagination. Though the graphics of video games from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s did not always faithfully translate his artwork into pixels, Amano’s images transported me into the world of Final Fantasy and made me feel as though I lived there.

Chuck Jones
Like most children, I was drawn to cartoons. I didn’t just watch animation–I was also fascinated by the way it was created. By the time I was old enough to understand what was going on behind the scenes, I had begun to recognize the work of individual animators. I was especially drawn to Chuck Jones’s style and used to be able to pick out when he was animating a particular character. Chuck Jones was responsible for creating several Looney Toons characters, perhaps most famously the mortal enemies Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

Jones had a way of drawing and animating the most outrageous expressions on his characters. The diabolical smile of The Grinch towards the beginning of my favorite Chuck Jones animated feature, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a perfect example. Much of my art during my youth included cartoon animal and monster characters that were undoubtedly inspired by his work.

Akira Toriyama
My high school era discovery of Akira Toriyama’s humorous and colorful artwork marked a turning point in my own work toward designing characters. Out of all the artists on this list, most people probably would have picked him out of a lineup as a major influence on my drawing style at the time. Toriyama is most well-known for his famous manga series, Dragon Ball, and his contribution of character and monster designs for the Dragon Warrior video game series. While some may dismiss Toriyama’s artwork as “just cartoons,” he is an excellent draftsman and can just as easily draw cars and complex fantasy machines as he can alien martial artists. I highly recommend his art books, especially the Dragon Ball illustration books and Toriyama’s the World and The World Special.

More on Akira Toriyama

Brian and Wendy Froud
As a fan of the Jim Henson fantasy films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, I became a fan of Brian and Wendy Froud before I had even learned their names. Their work was crucial to the development of both films. Brian Froud contributed the creature designs and illustrations and Wendy created the Muppets, including, perhaps most importantly, the principal characters of Jen and Kira for The Dark Crystal. The Frouds made an excellent team, bringing to life a coterie of colorful characters.  As I sought out the books that contained Brian Froud’s images for the films, I discovered his many faerie books. The most well known might be Faeries, by Brian Froud and fellow master fantasy artist Alan Lee. The presentation of his books as guides classifying various fey and describing their dwellings and habits was a novel idea, and one that helped to inspired my approach to The Explorer’s Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures.

Arthur Rackham
Arthur Rackham was a prolific illustrator of myths and fairytales during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was immediately drawn to his mastery of line. His drawings simply sing! Line is the foundation of Rackham’s images; the washes of paint and ink are just icing on the cake. Studying his body of work reveals that Arthur Rackham could draw almost anything, and he drew trees like no one else. I often look to Rackham’s work for inspiration when I feel like I’m draining the life from my drawings by getting too bogged down with rendering. He remains one of my favorite influences today.

Hayao Miyazaki
The first Japanese animated film I watched when I was introduced to anime in high school was My Neighbor Totoro (followed by Akira–could I have watched anything more diametrically opposed!?). My Neighbor Totoro was quiet and pleasantly slow, but definitely not boring. It was so different from most of the animation I had seen before, that at first, I wasn’t sure what to think of it.

Miyazaki eventually became one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. I am drawn to the beautiful simplicity of his art style and his sensitive portrayal of characters. His films are magical and transformative. I can’t think of many movies that make me cry at the same fleeting moment the way Laputa: Castle in the Sky does when Sheeta and Pazu catch a glimpse of the robot tending the garden, forever frozen in time.

More on Hayao Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli’s official Japanese language website

N.C. Wyeth
During his lifetime, N.C. Wyeth was haunted by the public’s opinion he was “merely” an illustrator and he yearned to be recognized as a painter. It is unfortunate that the illustration field was (and sometimes still is) separated from the fine arts with such an arbitrary distinction. Wyeth’s masterful compositions deftly serve the story he is illustrating. Indeed, they convey so much that the viewer is powerfully impacted by subtle elements of story and character beyond even what is apparent in the text. His paintings exemplify beautiful use of color, light and shadow with lively application of paint. When I see Wyeth’s work, I feel encouraged to experiment more with painterly descriptions of light and volume. I frequently look to his images for color palette inspiration. The Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, houses a large collection of N.C. Wyeth’s work, alongside that of his sons Andrew and Jaime, and many other important American illustrators. It’s a must-visit for anyone able to make the trip.

Artists of Capcom
Because I discovered them as a collective, I’ll cheat and consider the several artists who design the characters for Capcom’s games as one influence for the purposes of this list. When I first saw Darkstalkers in an arcade: Wow! I played that game because of the artwork. I used to collect strategy guides and game magazines that contained tidbits of Capcom art within.

Eventually, I bought a copy of Capcom Illustrations so I no longer had to squint at the tiny images printed in the instruction booklets. What I admire most about the art of Capcom is the incredible array of unique character designs and the ability of the artists to manipulate and exaggerate anatomy to differentiate those characters. I learned how dynamic poses and costuming can effectively portray a character’s personality. The artists of Capcom are definitely doing something right when characters from games with relatively sparse story-lines are so instantly recognizable and popular worldwide.
Individual websites
CRMK
Edayan
Akiman
Kinu Nishimura
Ikeno

Terryl Whitlatch
I encountered Terryl Whitlatch’s work through her concept designs for the Star Wars prequels. I was drawn to her uncanny ability to capture the essence and behavior of animals–a task at which few artists excel. Through her study of zoology and extensive knowledge of animal anatomy, she develops fascinating fantasy creatures that look like they would really “work.” She not only crafts the look of a creature with her expressive drawings; she imbues each individual with personality and character.

Omar Rayyan
Omar Rayyan combines two things I love: expressive watercolor painting and cute things! But if “cuteness” isn’t your thing, don’t worry–there is also a bit of an edge to his images. His paintings have a luminous quality. They are full of beautiful textures and colors. I watched Omar paint at a demonstration at Gen Con a few years ago. He’s one of those artists I envy, one whose brain seems constantly several steps ahead of his hands, making painting decisions on a whim that always seem to work. During the demo, he began painting with no drawing to guide him–something I would never dream of doing with my perfectionist personality and fear of producing bad work (even if it’s just for fun)!

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Emily’s book, The Explorer’s Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures, is available within our shop at Northlightshop.com. Enter coupon code DRAWFANTASY to get 10% off the price through April 27th.

Going to Gen Con? Emily will be in Artist’s Alley, so stop by and say hi!

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