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The Art of Charles Vess

14 Oct

Charles Vess is an American fantasy 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. Charles Vess has been drawing ever since he could hold a crayon. Working in his studio in downtown Abingdon, Virginia, Charles Vess adds a little bit of magic back into the mundane world, drawing pixies, swamp things, goth spirits and fantastical forests. If you’re a comics or fantasy fan, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with the works of Charles Vess, an award-winning artist and illustrator.  His collaborations with authors Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, as well as his cover art for Marvel and DC have gained him a passionate following across the world. His award-winning work has graced covers and pages from numerous comic book publishers including The Books of Magic, Sandman and Swamp Thing from DC Comics, as well as Spider-Man from Marvel Comics. He currently concentrates on book illustration, where he continues to win praise and accolades for his unique style. The ultimate testament to his talent came when Vess shared the prestigious World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story with Neil Gaiman in 1991 for their collaboration on The Sandman #19, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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The Art of Arthur Rackham

10 Aug

Arthur Rackham has been called ‘the leading decorative illustrator of the Edwardian period’ and is widely acknowledged as one of the most iconic fantasy artists who ever lived. His work has inspired not only other painters but, even more impressively, major writers like J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis and Poul Anderson. Appropriately enough for a fantasy artist, Rackham seemed perfectly in tune with the mythic past and his illustrations of the works of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Edgar Allan Poe in particular show him at his most creative and observant. In imagination, draftsmanship and colour-blending, his work has never been surpassed, even by modern day masters such as John Howe and Charles Vess. His deep understanding of the spirit of myth, fable, and folklore seems to have afforded him a transcendent range of expression which has perhaps only ever been equalled by his ‘spiritual son’ Alan Lee. In this post I’ve attempted to showcase some of his best work but it is a mere drop in the ocean of Rackham’s immense talent, which has produced an intimidatingly impressive body of work.

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The Art of Alan Lee

15 Dec

I appreciate fantasy artwork both for its aesthetic merits and for its importance to selling fantasy novels. They say you should never judge a book by its cover but I will freely admit that there has been more than one occasion on which I have been drawn to read or buy a book because of a spellbinding illustration on the cover that has made me just itch to find out more. Some illustrators have become as synonymous with certain writers’ work as the words themselves – it is difficult to imagine Alice in Wonderland without John Tenniel’s iconic sketches, Dickens and Phiz go together like salt and vinegar, and even today most editions of C S Lewis’s Narnia novels are adorned with the illustrations of Pauline Baynes. Perhaps the most perfect example as far as fantasy novels go of an author and illustrator being artistic soul-mates is that of Alan Lee and J R R Tolkien.

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