Vess, Charles

Tagged: Art

(1951-    ) American artist. After receiving a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1973, Vess briefly worked in animation before moving to New York City in 1977 to do illustrations for National Lampoon, Heavy Metal, Klutz Press, and other clients. Yet he displayed a natural talent for illustrating works of Fantasy by producing a number of paintings for a 1977 edition of J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) while also writing and illustrating his own fantasy novel, The Horns of Elfland (1979). Vess also did a handful of early book covers, displaying a distinctively ornate, decorous style of art, reminiscent of Victorian artists like Arthur Rankham; one example was his cover for the December 1981 issue of Fantasy Book, showing a Circe-like woman with a wand apparently surrounded by the men she has turned into pigs. In the 1980s, however, Vess largely abandoned covers to work primarily in the field of Comic books and Graphic Novels, and he garnered his greatest acclaim for numerous collaborations with his friend Neil Gaiman, including contributions to his Sandman series; one instalment unusually won the 1991 World Fantasy Award for short fiction, crediting Gaiman and Vess as co-authors. For Marvel Comics, he also wrote and illustrated a graphic novel featuring Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth (1990), and was primarily responsible for a 1991 adaptation of Steven Spielberg's film Hook (1991). On three occasions, Vess earned Will Eisner Awards for his work in comics. He also founded Green Man Press to publish books of his and others' artwork, including a series of illustrated adaptations of ballads that were eventually collected as The Book of Ballads (2004).

In the 1990s, Vess again turned more of his attention to artwork for books; one prominent project was numerous interior illustrations for Gaiman's story Stardust (1999) which were later employed in its 2008 film adaptation. He has illustrated several books by another friend, Charles de Lint, and his work for De Lint's chapbook A Circle of Cats (2002), including a nice cover showing cats gathering around a forest clearing, received a {SPECTRUM AWARD}. He painted colourfully charming covers for four anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and he perfectly captured the spirit of Winsor McCay in an imaginative cover for the first publication of Ray Bradbury's unproduced screenplay Nemo! (2012). Overall, one cannot describe Vess as versatile, but he has shown himself to be an ideal artist for certain sorts of fantasies. [GW]

Charles Dana Vess

born Lynchburg, Virginia: 10 June 1951

died

works

  • The Horns of Elfland (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Archival Press, 1979) [illustrated novel: hb/Charles Vess]

graphic works

  • Charles Vess Sketchbook (Northampton, Massachusetts: Green Man Press, 1991) [chap: graph: "Tundra Sketchbook Series" No. 5: pb/Charles Vess]
  • The Book of Ballads (New York: Tor Books, 2004) [graphic novel: narrative adaptations of ballads by various authors: illus/hb/Charles Vess]
  • Charles Vess by Chris Irving and Eric-Nolen Weathington (Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2007) [graph: "Modern Masters" series No. 11: introduction by Michael Kaluta: includes two-part Vess interview with Irving and Weathington: pb/Charles Vess]
  • Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess (Milwaukie, Oregon: Dark House Books, 2009) [graph: foreword by Susanna Clarke: hb/Charles Vess]

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