Meet the faculty! - Charles Vess

Charles Vess' award-winning work has graced the covers and interior pages of many publications from Marvel and DC to children's and adult books.

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' "Stardust", an illustrated novel with 175 paintings, was adapted into an acclaimed film in 2007 with an impressive cast including Michelle Pfieffer, Robert DeNiro and Claire Danes.

Charles' awards include the Ink Pot, the Mythopoeic, a Gold and two Silver medals in the Spectrum Fantastic Art Annual, two Chesleys, Locus (Best Artist), two Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and three World Fantasy Awards (2 for Best Artist).

His art has been featured in many gallery and museum exhibitions across the nation, including 'The Original Art: The Best in Children's Book Illustration - 2013' at the Museum of American Illustration (The Society of Illustrators, NYC) as well as internationally in Paris, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

His most recent publications include two New York Times bestselling picture books penned by Neil Gaiman, "Blueberry Girl" and "Instructions" as well as "Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess" a 200-page retrospective of his art published by Dark Horse Books.  "The Cats of Tanglewood Forest" (Little Brown & Co.) a middle grade novel written by Charles de Lint featuring 76 paintings by Charles was released in the spring of 2013 to much critical acclaim. A follow up, "Seven Wild Sisters" will be released this month (February '14)!

For visual treats and updates, visit his website or on facebook.

What influences your art the most?

At times people have called what I do old-fashioned because of my continued delight in using elements of myth and folklore as its basis but I say that my art is cutting edge modern to do so. As the world continues to shrink we are constantly confronted by the 'other' - both as individuals and as cultures - if we don't make an effort to understand those that are different we are left with only conflict and war. Drawing the world of myth bridges both the artist and their readers to 'lands distant and strange,' and to the people that live in them, offering us a chance to understand and accept those differences and to free us from our unreasoning fear of them.

What is the most exciting thing you've learned recently?

To step out of the way of my conscious mind and let my subconscious do the talking. Everything you've ever read or seen or listened to is stored deep down in there and if you allow it, that knowledge will just flow out of your fingertips.

What do you wish you had known earlier in your career?

That it's okay (and even necessary) to make mistakes. You can learn a lot from your own aesthetic train wrecks and apply that knowledge to your next effort.

How do you battle through rough patches? What drives you forward?

Knowing that, however small sometimes, that what what I do does indeed actually change the world and affect the people that  see it. Over the years I've talked to too many people that had seen my work, or that I had met and given advice to, and that advice radically changed how they decided to approach the world, to discount what I do as simply making myself happy. And I like to think that what I've affected is a positive change in that individual.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

"Never do a job just for the money. No matter what 'they' offer, you don't say yes if it doesn't make your heart sing."

At this stage in your career, what is your dream project?

There are still almost too many to mention, but here goes a few: an illustrated edition of "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter, an illustrated edition of "The King of Elflands Daughter" by Lord Dunsany. And getting a book project that I've worked on for many, many years off the ground, "The Greenwood" - a story combining text, graphic narrative elements and illustration.

What's one thing your students will take away from your workshop?

I'll give you more than one:

1.) As an artist one should use ANY method you have at your fingertips to produce a satisfying image and that includes (and always will) traditional paths. They are ALL an essential part of modern illustration. We will hone the traditional here and transcend its roots.


2.) That you can draw from your heart and still make a good living. :-)

Also, my workshop will include a step-by-step, live art demonstration - from initial rough sketch to a full color painting. In doing so I'll demonstrate the painting technique that I've developed over my 40 years of practical illustration assignments: washing layer after layer of colored inks over an inked outline drawing to achieve my finished image.

Along the way I'll also be showing various step-by-step digital presentations of the techniques I've used to develop entire books like "Stardust", "Blueberry Girl", or "The Cats of Tanglewood Forest".

I'll also give a presentation entitled The Art of the Fantastic that inspires me to jump to my drawing and get on with it!

Charles Vess' workshop: Drawing From the Imagination (and Using a Big Eraser) is scheduled Feb 28th-Mar 2nd. 
There are still a couple of spots left - be quick to snag this opportunity!

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