Charles Dana Vess (born June 10, 1951) is a premier American fantasy illustrator and comics artist who began his career in 1976, after moving to New York City. His visual storytelling of myths and fairy tales has won him several awards. In past interviews, he cited the following — among others — as influences: Arthur Rackham, Hal Foster, Winsor McCay, Walt Kelly, John Bauer, Alfred Bestall, Alphonse Mucha, and W. H. Robinson. Vess was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, and now lives in Abingdon, Virginia, with his wife. I’ve been enjoying his work since 1984.
He uses coloured inks for his paintings, black India ink for his black and white illustrations, and graphite and (recently) black coloured pencil for his grayscale artwork. Somewhat recently, he’s also worked with coloured pencils in combination with coloured inks.
Vess paints beautiful pastoral scenes and is a master at rendering and painting fantastic trees. The skies and cloud formations he draws and paints have such beautiful and delicate atmospheres and moods. There is a great feeling of movement as well, present in all his work.
In addition to a deep well of wonderful imagination, I love his delicate line work and amazing, lively use of colour. His compositions are well thought out and remarkable, as are his depictions of forests and trees. Because his work is so whimsical and charged with emotion, it’s the perfect match for fantasy book illustration.
Charles Vess’ latest major project is The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, written by Ursula K. Le Guin. Sadly, she passed away on January 22nd, 2018, at the age of 88, very shortly before its publication. Vess created 56 illustrations over a span of 4 years for this massive volume, which was released in bookstores on October 30th, 2018.
Among many of my treasured books by him are Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess and Walking Through the Landscape of Faerie.
Second to my faith in God, Charles Vess was the only artist whose work saw me through a great trial in my younger years — a great escape indeed!