Charles Vess was born in 1951 in Lynchburg, VA, and has been drawing ever since he could grasp a crayon and crawl to the nearest wall. When Charles was a bit older he left the Crayolas behind and attended Virginia Commonwealth University, graduating in 1974 with a BFA. Afterwards, he worked in commercial animation for Candy Apple Productions in Richmond, VA, until moving to New York City in 1976. There he became a freelance illustrator, working for many publications including Heavy Metal, Klutz Press and National Lampoon.
For over 10 years Charles’ work was featured in various comic book publishers including Marvel (Spider-man, Raven Banner), DC (Books of Magic, Swamp Thing, Sandman) and Dark Horse (Book of Night). One epic result was a Spider-man graphic novel Spirits of the Earth (1990) that he wrote, drew and painted. Since then his artwork has moved more into book illustration and he continues to win accolades and praise with his detailed, ethereal, light-and-shadow infused work.
Charles’ art has been featured in many gallery and museum exhibitions across the nation, as well as Spain, Portugal, the UK, Italy and France. His work was included in the first major exhibition of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art at the New Britain Museum of American Art in 1980.
Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice: the Mythic Journeys Art Exhibition, (DeFoor Art Centre, Atlanta, 2004) was co-curated by Vess and his wife, Karen Shaffer. This exhibition (and full-color catalog) featured an international roster of over 22 artists, including Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Wendy Froud, Terri Windling, Mayumi Oda, Helena Nelson-Reed and Roxanne Swentzell.