on 12 July 2012
I first experienced the art of Charles Vess through the issues and cover art of the Vertigo/DC Comics series The Sandman and Swamp Thing during the 1990's. Along with the stories in those comic books, his artwork definitely left it's impression on me as well. An ethereal feel to the art, sort of a blend of the old fashioned Art Nouveau style with classic fantasy art. And a few years later I read through the Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess illustrated novel Stardust (after I watched the movie, which I also love), and fell in love with his artwork all over again.
Fast forward a few years later and, from Dark Horse Books, comes 'Drawing Down The Moon: The Art Of Charles Vess'. This is a superb collection of paintings, pencil sketches, pen and inks from a legend of fantasy art. Over 200 pages of luscious artwork, some with descriptions by Charles himself, and includes some of his work for Swamp Thing, Stardust as well as other works such as for George RR Martin's 'A Storm Of Swords', and 'Spiderman' and 'The Books Of Magic'.
Presented as a large format book, with most of the art taking up the full page, and with a foreword by Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell), this book is a joy to read and must for those that love quality art and fantasy art in particular! Totally recommended!
Charles Vess is one of those illustrators that every fantasy fan has seen -- he's done comics and illustrations for Neil Gaiman, mainstream graphic novels, and covers for authors like Charles de Lint, Diana Wynne-Jones, Terri Windling and George R.R. Martin. "Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess" brings together countless pieces of Vess's gorgeous art.
The artwork is divided into Vess's early artwork, "Playing in Someone Else's Sandbox" (comic book artwork, such as Spiderman, Bone and Sandman), "Drawing Between the Lines" (adaptations of classic tales and various gorgeous illustration works for "Stardust," "Deep Secret," "Peter Pan" and various Charles de Lint stories), "Ballads and Sagas," and "Odds and Ends."
There are also a lot of other, random tidbits of artwork throughout the book, such as flyers and advertisements, such as an illustration depicting Tori Amos as a floating fairy. And there are odds and ends that have been just sort of in the ether, like previously unpublished illustrations.
Each picture has a title, and quite a few have an explanatory paragraph showing why Vess drew what he drew, the thought processes behind it, and something of the progression of his art. For instance, his love of hit comics like Prince Valiant and Fables, or his desire to take more "personal" projects.
But Vess' artwork is the real star here -- luminous colors, delicate lines, and beautiful fey creatures that are just a little freaky and unearthly. Some are black-and-white pencil sketches, and they are full of fragile beauty.
But the pictures with color simply seem to float out of the pages, glowing with soft mossy greens, rich leathery browns, pale yellows, shadowy blacks and a layer of pale starlight. Some are simple depictions of a solid image (the cover of Diana Wynne-Jones' "Deep Secret" has a centaur jumping over a bunch of convention-goers), but others are entwined with tree boughs, crumbling stone walls, low-hanging moons and old-world buildings.
Those who love fantasy art will probably adore "Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess," which brings together the works of this talented artist. Gorgeous and luminous.