VCU Libraries Gallery

Scotland Yard Detective, Page 1-A


Scotland Yard Detective Page 1-A, Charles Vess Papers M374.jpg
Scotland Yard Detective Page 1-A, Charles Vess Papers M374.jpg
Title: Scotland Yard Detective, Page 1-A
Creator: Vess, Charles
Date: 1987
Source: VCU Libraries, James Branch Cabell Library, Special Collections and Archives, Charles Vess Papers M374.
Publisher: Concept art for the book Time Machine #17: Scotland Yard Detective, that was published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.
Description: This piece is an excellent example of dynamic composition. In this scene a group of people with clubs and torches startle the horses drawing a coach, and the coach begins to overturn. Each part of the image, from the buildings to the characters, works to draw visual attention to the center of the piece where the main action occurs.
In the bottom of the work, three figures with their backs turned to the viewer appear to rush forward towards the coach. Visually the three are stacked into a pyramid shape, as one man is placed a bit above and before the others. This pyramid shape leads the viewer’s attention to the coach that the three are facing with its “point”, i.e. the head of the man in front. These figures occupy the lower half of the work, buildings and a smoke cloud occupy the upper. From the top right corner, diagonal hatching (shading accomplished through the use of straight lines) descends towards the coach. This downward motion is echoed by the peaked rooftops of the buildings and the vertical lines of their windows, all of which end at the coach.
The coach is the center of the work, and also functions as the center of the action. The tossing head of the horse on the left and the way its body is positioned draws the viewer’s eye up from the head of the lead figure in the bottom of the piece. From there the viewer’s eye travels along the horse’s body to the tip of its nose, which is parallel to the coach driver. The coach driver in his bid to stay seated has thrown out one foot towards the horse, and planted one down on the bench by the lead figure’s shoulder. These lines of sight together create a circular composition that joins the lead figure, the left horse, and the driver. Each one motions in some way to the other two, which effectively traps the viewer’s gaze in that spot.
The goal of any effective composition is to direct the viewer’s attention to the places that are most important in an image, and to keep that attention focused there. The way that this piece was arranged compositionally is not the only way it can be done, and the choice of method is up to the artist. But no matter how one decides to layout a page, it is important to always keep in mind how the parts of that page function together in order to communicate the narrative.
Original Format: Drawing
Physical Dimensions: 8 1/2 x 14 inches
Considering Comics
Vess, Charles, “Scotland Yard Detective, Page 1-A,” VCU Libraries Gallery, accessed June 13, 2024,