A bit ago, on a certain Tuesday at 2 pm, I got the call to be at the airport at 5:30 pm to fly to London for a visit to the Stardust sets. Neil had called the day before so I was already packed and ready for the adventure. Wednesday morning I stumbled off the plane at Gatwick and was met by a driver and taken, first to a hotel to freshen up, then on to London to pick up Neil, and then to Pinewood Studios where the film was being shot. The cast and crew were scheduled for a night shoot so it was still quiet when we arrived mid-afternoon. We toured the costume and art departments then casually wandered through several gorgeous full size sets.

All the photos below were taken by Neil’s cellphone.



Top photo: The artist himself, posing by a replica of one of the Lilum,
impaled on the wall of the set of the Witch Queen’s palace.

Bottom photo: The crew busy prepping a scene on the same set.

The re-creation of the Mountain Inn that the Witch Queen conjures up in order to trap the Star was lovely. The exterior looked just perfect for an artist’s studio but a bit too big to consider absconding back to Virginia. However the interior was a perfect lair of bone furniture and dark wooden beams just right for the Lilum though a bit gloomy for my art making. (Oh yeah? What about that mountain of skulls you drew in The Books of Magic Charles? remarks Karen) Later that night they were shooting Michelle Pfeiffer’s last scenes in the witch’s lair, a set that fills almost an entire sound stage, stunning to say the least! She was in hag makeup and costume when I spoke with her. Luminous, beautiful eyes peering out of a face made up to look hundreds of years old. The next day I was overcome with the need to draw and retired to the art department and there, surrounded by minature constructions of all the sets, I did just that. Several hours later I’d penciled out a nice concept drawing for the new hardcover edition of Stardust, the book that Vertigo will be releasing next spring. The only trouble was the drawing was too large for my portfolio so we scanned it onto disc for future reference and Neil and I then presented it to Clare Danes. That earned me several big hugs. Nice!


A somewhat blurry photo of our Stardust girl, Clare Danes,
enjoying a relaxing moment.

None of the designs look quite like my original drawings but are never the less very satisfying in their own right. Much as if they were from an alternative world of Stardust just slightly over to the left from my own. After seeing some 35 minutes of raw footage from the film I was blown away. In the rushes were equal amounts of adventure, humor and downright terror. Michelle makes for a very, very scary Witch Queen and Clare is a lovely transformed fallen star. Charlie Cox (Tristran) evolves from lovable nerd to hero as naturally as if he were born for the role. I think (big sigh of relief) that it could very well be a lovely movie. Come next March we will all know.


On the set with Charlie Cox as Tristran.

After two days of glam, Neil and I headed for the train station in route to the Scottish Highlands. But everything came to screeching halt when I discovered I’d left my portfolio in our cab. Neil caught the train and I returned back to the taxi stand. After a frantic search and several calls to the Taxi Company and to the Police Department’s lost and found, I continued on to Scotland on the next train. What else could I do? I’d been told that there was a very good chance that my portfolio would be returned but that it would take 4-6 days to process through the system. So why wait impatiently in a London hotel? The Highlands are a place of what some have called ‘a terrible beauty’ and not for those that only want picture postcard beauty. After two days of walking the moors and mountains, where the continual wind clears your head of most any confusion, Neil proclaimed that I was doing the best job of zenning out my could-be disaster that he’d ever seen.


Neil and myself enjoying the typical Scottish weather.

Upon my return to London the following Monday the trustworthiness of the London cabbie was revealed. I give them an enormous tip of the hat because I soon had my portfolio and all my art safe and sound, back in my hands.

A good thing too, as it contained all of the artwork for my current project, a collection of short stories by Susanna Clarke, The Ladies of Grace Adieu. The book will have 19 b/w illustrations and be published by Bloomsbury Books this October.



Also in the portfolio were all of my pencil layouts to the Blueberry Girl picture book for Harper Collins. Lordy, loosing all that art would have been a personal disaster.

Then it was back home for one day and a turn around to the San Diego Comic Con for more Stardust business.

On the day of our presentation Neil, Jane Goldman (the co-writer of the screenplay and a genuinely gracious lady) and I were made up and groomed in preparation for the media circus. It was a hoot. The stylist kept asking why I was laughing… A stretch limo was there to take us two blocks (!) to the back of the Convention Center so we wouldn’t have to navigate through the crowds. Then there was a short wait in the Media Green Room where I saw directors Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro (the previews for his next film, Pan’s Labyrinth, look GREAT!) and others. Then into Hall H where a crowd of 6000 plus watched our presentation of STARDUST footage. A slight look to the right or left while answering questions revealed your face projected up to 10′ on giant screens – weirdly amusing! Then several hours of print and media interviews followed.


The last 2 days at Comic Con I wandered the aisles, stopping to talk to many friends.

I think that I’m going to try for a booth next year, there will be more Stardust prints for the deluxe portfolio and perhaps a sculpture or two.


18 Responses to “”

  1. tom says:

    Charles – It rained in Scotland?

    You and Neil look prepared for the season…

    (it’s rained most of August this year. And last Sunday too. Although July was nice)



  2. hollybird says:

    An artist’s worst nightmare — or one of. You showed those Blueberry Girl layouts to Ingrid and I and others at the ICFA last spring and they are particularly lovely. We can’t wait to see the final picture book. Glad that the cabbie was one of the good guys and that everything in the portfolio is safe & sound.

    PS: Nice looking blog!

  3. Jouniac says:

    Hello Charles.

    Love the photo of you and Neil in the rain… you guys look like… like seals or something… hehh.

    Jouni (the long-haired Finn from Fiddler’s Green, if you happen to remember)

  4. lucytoon says:


    this is a FINE blog charles!!!!

    much love!


  5. Wolfsong says:

    Wow! They got the lovely and talented Sarah Alexander from “Coupling” for this movie and the went and totally uglified her. I hope she gets to spend a moment or two without hag make-up in the film.

  6. mikeetheprude says:

    I’m liking the blog already. A booth at Comic Con is an awesome idea. I’m really hoping the film adaption of Stardust captures at least some of beauty your art brought to Neil’s wonderful story. Keep posting, I’ll keep reading.

  7. segundus says:

    The Highlands of Scotland – I remember going there several years ago and it rained constantly, but it made for interesting walks tredging through the mud. Got utterly lost and we must have walked miles getting back to the hostel we were staying in. Tremendous fun.

    I didn’t recongise the actress OR that it was a dummy that you were posing with – just goes to show you what the practical special effects folk can come up with these days. I’m too used to the digital age of visual effects.

    P.S. – many thanks for the links back to FoEM and many thanks for letting me post the images on FoEM in the first place. I’m really looking forward to receiving my limited edition copy from Bloomsbury when it’s unleashed!

  8. isobel says:

    please please please, keep on with this journal!!

  9. Ironhenry says:

    This all looks wonderful. Thanks for the news!

  10. Charles Vess says:

    Hey all,

    No worries, I love playing around with this journal and receiving all your responses. Next up (tomorrow) I think I’ll post the re-creation of the drawing that I gave to Clare Danes that is now going to be the cover to the new hardcover edition of Stardust from DC/Vertigo. And as I work on the Blueberry Girl book I’ll be uploading those images too.

    See you then,

  11. stardustgirl says:

    Hooray! A blog so we can know when stuff is coming out. :-) A Dreamhaven elf tipped me off about the upcoming hardcover so I *think* I’ve got the Stardust books page all updated now. Let me know if not.

    I cringed when I read about the portfolio story – glad it turned out OK!


  12. davids says:

    Charles…. where exactly did you go in Scotland?


    Just curious…..


  13. segundus says:

    Can’t wait to buy the new hardcover when it comes out! Did I read correctly there is going to be an illustrated screenplay or something similiar too?

  14. segundus says:

    Ah, sorry. I’m thinking of another project with regards to the illustrated screenplay. I’m trying to keep track of too many films at the moment.

  15. Richard says:

    I have to get that Clarke collection now. For the illustrations if nothing else.

  16. erica says:

    ’bout time for a blog!

    The rainy picture is my new favorite picture of you. Even better than the drunken one in the funny mask at Fiddler’s Green.

    your small, irritating relation

  17. Scott Conner says:

    Thanks to Jill, I can finally get the comments to post ;-)

    The new Blog looks great!

  18. madmccabe says:

    These photos are great fun! I can’t wait to see the movie.

    You and Neil look like your managing to keep a smile on your face regardless of the weather :P I’m really glad that you managed to get your portfolio back. I would have been in tears if I had lost mine.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.