Charles Vess (born June 10, 1951) is an American fantasy artist and comics artist who has specialized in the illustration of myths and fairy tales. His influences include British "Golden Age" book illustrator Arthur Rackham, Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, and comic-strip artist Hal Foster, among others. Vess has won several awards for his illustrations.
Charles Vess in his studio, Green Man Press, in Abingdon, Virginia.
|Born||June 10, 1951|
|The Book of Ballads and Sagas|
|Collaborators||Neil Gaiman, Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, Charles de Lint|
|Awards||Inkpot Award, 1990|
Eisner Award, 1991, 1997, 2002
World Fantasy Award, 1991, 1999
Comic Creators' Guild, 1993
Silver Award (Comics Industry), 1995
Early life and careerEdit
Charlies Vess began drawing comic art as a child. He graduated with a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 1974. While at VCU, Vess' comics appeared in the Fan Free Funnies, a comic tabloid published by the student newspaper. His first professional position was as a commercial animator for Candy Apple Productions in Richmond, Virginia, which he held for approximately two years.
In 1976 he moved to New York City and became a freelance illustrator. He contributed illustrations to publications including Heavy Metal, Klutz Press (now an imprint of Scholastic Press), and National Lampoon. One notable publication from this early period was The Horns of Elfland (ISBN 0-915822-25-3) published by Archival Press in 1979, which Vess wrote and illustrated.
From 1980-82 Vess worked as an art instructor at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. During that period, his work appeared in one of the first major museum exhibitions of science fiction and fantasy art, held at the New Britain Museum of American Art in 1980.
By the late 1980s Vess had found a niche in the world of fantasy comic art with publications such as The Raven Banner: A Tale of Asgard written by Alan Zelenetz and published by Marvel Comics in 1985, The Book of Night, published by Dark Horse Comics in 1987, and "The Warriors Three Saga" in Marvel Fanfare #34-37 (Sept. 1987–April 1988). He painted the cover of the debut issue of Web of Spider-Man (April 1985), wrote and drew a backup story in The Amazing Spider-Man #277 (June 1986), and crafted the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel (1990). In 1991 he illustrated the official comic-book adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s Hook and had an eleven issue run (#129-139) as cover artist of Swamp Thing by DC Comics in 1993.
Collaborations with Neil GaimanEdit
In 1990, Vess began one of his best-known collaborations to date, with writer Neil Gaiman. He illustrated "The Land of Summer's Twilight", one of the four episodes in the original The Books of Magic mini-series, and worked on three issues of Gaiman’s critically acclaimed The Sandman series. Sandman #19 ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") is a meta-fictional adaptation of William Shakespeare's play and in 1991, that issue won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, the only comic book to hold the honor, as award organizers subsequently amended the rules to specifically exclude comics. Vess contributed eight drawings for a prose-based inset that appeared in Sandman #62 ("The Kindly Ones: 6") and illustrated the final issue of the series, Sandman #75, a second Shakespeare adaptation ("The Tempest"). He drew the covers for the Books of Faerie spin-off series Molly's Story (1999).
Between 1997 and 1998 the collaboration between Vess and Gaiman continued in the four-part series Stardust, a prose novella to which Vess contributed 175 paintings. The series was collected and published in trade paperback form by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. Stardust won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. It received a Mythopoeic Award, and Vess was given the 1999 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist for his work on the series.
In 1999, Vess's own Green Man Press produced a portfolio as a benefit for his wife Karen, injured in a car accident, titled A Fall of Stardust, which contained two chapbooks and a series of art plates.
Tales and SagasEdit
Beginning in 1995 Vess self-published a biannual series of comics entitled The Book of Ballads and Sagas through his Green Man Press. In this series Vess illustrated adaptations of traditional Scottish and English ballads written by a variety of contributors, including Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Sharyn McCrumb, Jeff Smith, and Jane Yolen. Issues 1-4 were collected and published as Ballads in 1997. The work was reprinted as a hardback by Tor Books in 2004 with additional material, including an introduction by Terri Windling.
Collaborations with Terri Windling and Ellen DatlowEdit
Vess has illustrated a series of anthologies edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, published by Viking Press. They are: The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002), The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004), and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007).
Collaborations with Charles de LintEdit
Vess worked with longtime friend and writer Charles de Lint on at least half a dozen publications, including Seven Wild Sisters (Subterranean Press, 2002) and related projects A Circle of Cats (Viking, 2003), and Medicine Road (Subterranean Press, 2005, as well as a later edition by Tachyon Publications, 2009), along with others mentioned above. In 2004 Vess did both a color cover and front page illustration and additional black and white interior illustrations for a 20th anniversary (signed, limited) edition of Moonheart, by de Lint (Subterranean Press).
In a 2004 interview, Vess cited among many artistic influences, beginning with the 19th-century British book illustrator Arthur Rackham, saying,
I discovered his work while I was still in college and immediately fell completely in love with it. His art, unlike a lot of other artists that I discovered at the same time (Maxfield Parrish, Frank Frazetta, etc.) I've never grown tired of. I always find myself learning new things every time I study it. But there are many others that have influenced me, among them: the Swedish illustrator John Bauer, Howard Pyle, the 19th-century German illustrator Hermann Vogel, Alphonse Mucha (the father of Art Nouveau), Willy Pogany, Kay Nielsen, W. H. Robinson, Hal Foster and Alfred Bestall (the British illustrator of the long running Rupert Bear series). Among the living I count Michael Kaluta, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Lizebeth Zwerger and Terri Windling.
Starting in 1989 with "The Art of Fantasy and Science Fiction" at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, a series of gallery exhibitions have featured Vess's artwork. The gallery show "Storyteller" appeared in 1992 at Frameworks Gallery in Bristol, Virginia. The following year he showed work under the title "The Mythic Garden" at the Open Air Birch Garden in Devon, England, and "The Magic" at Repartee Gallery in Park City, Utah.
In 1994, after he moved to southwestern Virginia, a local museum asked Vess to organize a show which became The DreamWeavers: a travelling exhibition of 15 fantasy artists from a variety of fields including children's book illustrators Jerry Pinkney, Dennis Nolan, Gennady Spirin, Ruth Sanderson and David Wisnieski; comic book illustrators Michael Kaluta, and Vess himself; science fiction/fantasy book jacket artists Dawn Wilson and James Gurney; commercial book illustrators Scott Gustafson, Brian Froud, Alan Lee and Alicia Austin, and fine artist Terri Windling. The show ran from fall 1994 through summer 1995.
Since that time Vess's work has appeared in gallery showings and museum exhibitions including:
- "The Tempest" Spring 1996. Four Color Images Gallery, New York City
- "Stardust" Spring - Summer 1998 Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco.
- "Good Goddess Arts Exhibition", Johnson City, and Abingdon, USA, March 1998, 1999, and 2000.
- "Into the Light," Comic Art Symposium, Avilles, Spain, Fall 2000.
- "Fantasy, Visionaries of the Fantastic" Turin, Italy, Spring 2002.
- "A Circle of Cats," 153W Bookstore & Gallery, Abingdon, Summer 2003
- "Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice," (Co-curator and participating artist) The DeFoor Centre, Atlanta, Spring 2004.
- "Earthsea Imagined" Massillon Museum, Massillon, Ohio, Spring 2018.
- Inkpot Award: For excellence in comic art, 1990.
- World Fantasy Award: Best short story, 1991 for Sandman #19, by Neil Gaiman and Vess.
- Eisner Award: Best Single Issue, 1991 for Concrete Celebrates Earth Day, by Paul Chadwick, Vess, and Jean "Moebius" Giraud.
- Comic Creators' Guild: 1993 Best Cover (Dark Horse Presents #75).
- Silver Award (Comics) 1995, Spectrum Annual of Imaginative Art.
- Eisner Award: Best Penciler/Inker, 1996 for The Book of Ballads and Sagas and Sandman #75.
- World Fantasy Award: Best Artist, 1998 for Stardust, written by Neil Gaiman.
- Eisner Award: Best Painter/Multimedia Artist, 2002 for Rose, written by Jeff Smith
- World Fantasy Award: Best Artist, 2010.
- Cerebus #196 (1995)
- The Horns of Elfland (1979)
- Rose #1–3 (2000–2002)
Dark Horse ComicsEdit
- Book of Night #1–2 (1987)
- Dark Horse Presents #75, 78 (1993)
- The Big Book Of Grimm #1 (1999)
- The Books of Magic #3 (1991)
- The Dreaming #47 (2000)
- Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall HC (2006)
- Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust #1–4 (1997–1998)
- Promethea #4 (1999)
- Sandman #19, 62, 75 (1990–1996)
Green Man PressEdit
- The Book of Ballads and Sagas #1–4 (1995–1997)
- Heavy Metal #v1#12, #v2#5, #v2#6, #v3#7, #v8#6 (1978–1984)
- The Amazing Spider-Man #277 (1986)
- Conan the Barbarian #163 (1984)
- Conan the King #20 (1984)
- Epic Illustrated #5, 8–10, 16, 21–22, 24, 27 (1981–1984)
- Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men #1 (1985)
- Hook Magazine #1 (1992)
- Kull the Conqueror #4 (1984)
- Marvel Fanfare #6 (Doctor Strange); #13 (Tales of Asgard); #34–37 (Warriors Three) (1983–1988)
- Marvel Graphic Novel #15 ("The Raven Banner") (1985)
- Prince Valiant #1–4 (1994–1995)
- Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth HC (1990)
- Thor #400 (1989)
- The Forbidden Book #1 (2001)
Spiderbaby Grafix & PublicationsEdit
- Taboo #1, 4 (1988–1990)
- Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide. Iola, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on October 30, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- "Fan Free Funnies volumes 1-3 (1973)". VCU Libraries. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
- Charles Vess at the Grand Comics Database
- Ash, Roger (June 2017). "The Adventures of the Warriors Three". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (96): 52–55.
- David, Peter; Greenberger, Robert (2010). The Spider-Man Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles Spun from Marvel's Web. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press. p. 118. ISBN 0762437723.
Having fantasy artist Charles Vess illustrate the first cover to Web of Spider-Man also announced that this [series] was something unique.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1980s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 154. ISBN 978-0756692360.
In the issue's second story, written and illustrated by the talented Charles Vess, Spider-Man swung into a snowstorm in Central Park in order to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a diplomat.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- Cowsill, Alan "1990s" in Gilbert (2012), p. 190: "The magnificent painted artwork of Charles Vess was the star of the show in this 86-page hardback graphic novel."
- Irvine, Alex (2008). "The Books of Magic". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The Vertigo Encyclopedia. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 38–41. ISBN 0-7566-4122-5. OCLC 213309015.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
The Sandman saw a variety of artists grace its pages. Sam Kieth drew the first few issues, followed by Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Shawn McManus, among others.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion. New York, New York: DC Comics. pp. 74–88. ISBN 978-1563894657.
- Burgas, Greg (January 7, 2013). "Comics You Should Own – Sandman". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014.
- Irvine "The Books of Faerie" in Dougall, p. 36–37
- "2000 Alex Awards". Young Adult Library Services Association. 2013. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013.
- "A Fall of Stardust". The Neil Gaiman Visual Bibliography. n.d. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012.
- Vess, Charles (July 2007). "Blueberry Wanderings". Green Man Press. Archived from the original on May 25, 2013. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
- "An Interview with Charles Vess". The Green Man Review. November 29, 2004. Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- "Exhibition - Earthsea Imagined by Charles Vess". Best Things Ohio (AmericanTowns Media). Archived from the original on May 11, 2018. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
- "Inkpot Award Winners". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
- "Neil Gaiman". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. 2011. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013.
- "Charles Vess". Lambiek Comiclopedia. June 9, 2012. Archived from the original on November 12, 2012.
- "1990s Eisner Awards Recipients". San Diego Comic-Con International. 2013. Archived from the original on August 23, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
- "Comics Creators Guild Award". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013.
- "Spectrum Awards 1995". Science Fiction Awards Database. August 10, 2012. Archived from the original on May 3, 2014.
- "Award Winners & Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. 2013. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013.
- Official website
- Charles Vess at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- An autobiographical essay
- Charles Vess at the Comic Book Database
- Charles Vess at Library of Congress Authorities, with 23 catalog records
- Charles Vess at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Charles Vess at the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators