Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess (Dark Horse)

Dark Horse presents a stunning compilation of art from renowned fantasy artist and Eisner- winner Charles Vess, an illustrator perhaps best known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Stardust).


215 pgs. color; $29.99
(W / A: Charles Vess, foreword by Susanna Clarke)
The artwork of Eisner-winning illustrator Charles Vess (Swamp Thing, Sandman, Stardust, Rose) is instantly recognizable, if for no other reason than he is one of the very few modern artists who still pay homage to the golden age of Edwardian art. He presents fantastic scenes with such incredible depth and detail that it is difficult to imagine that he did not draw upon a real-life encounter with a sprite. And truly, if you encountered one of Vess’ fairies you would certainly remember the occasion. His hobgoblins are not the frail and floaty creations many of us are used to seeing, so often soft and feminine with ubiquitous butterfly or pearly insect-wings, but instead each has their own personality and style. Lanky-limbed and mischievous, with pointed noses and joints and hair, these are the fey of the old country; these are the ones you damned well better put the milk out for if you don’t want bad luck to befall you.
Drawing Down the Moon is a sort of gallery presentation from Vess to the reader. For those not in the know, Vess’ work product is enormous; he’s done comic cover art, comic panels, standalone illustrations, book covers, trading cart art, theater posters, and even a fountain. Navigating everything he’s created over the years would be a daunting task. Luckily, this artist is methodical and chronological in his narrative, candidly acknowledging his own failures as an artist, casually mentioning his trials in ‘70s New York, and then his first break into the comics world with his introduction to Marvel in the ‘80s. He takes you on a journey through his life’s work, helpfully narrating all the while. You feel like you’re watching a slideshow in someone’s living room as he talks about changes in his style, his inspiration, and the stories behind his work.
The ‘90s show more familiar fan territory, as Vess presents his work in Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed Sandman and Books of Magic series as well as his painted cover art for Swamp Thing for DC comics. Here we see Vess’ other great talent: crowd composition and forestry. Crowds are generally intimidating for most artists, but Vess genuinely enjoys the chaos and takes full advantage to insert delightful “Easter eggs” for the careful eye. As for Vess’ forests, besides his enviable talent for capturing the sinewy and fluid movement of tree and flower, like his fairies his woods all have their own spirit and mood. Faces and emotions emerge in evocative foliage and the interplay of light and shadow, and viewers are reminded that the forest is indeed a living thing.
It would take far too long to name every project that is presented in Drawing Down the Moon, but suffice to say Charles Vess has been tapped for so many heady collaborations and works because he is simply that good. He maintains whimsy and the fantastic without being heavy-handed or insulting, offering detailed portraiture that is always fluid and never cluttered. For anyone who is an art enthusiast, comics collector, or simply an Enjoyer of Shiny Things, Drawing Down the Moon is a must. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Click here for a preview of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess, courtesy of Dark Horse.

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