The incredible visionary mind behind the covers to Sandman, the directing of MirrorMask, the book Cages and so much more joins Melissa tonight to talk about his new book Raptor as well as his amazing career!
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Dave McKean Interview
[00:00:00]Melissa: This is spoiler country and I’m Melissa searcher today on the show. I’m excited to welcome award-winning illustrator comic book, artist, photographer, and filmmaker, Dave McKean. Welcome to the show.
Dave McKean: Hello. Very nice to be here.
Melissa: That’s where it’s nice to have you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.
Dave McKean: That’s fine. That’s fine.
Melissa: Perfect. So I’d love to know, you know, in your career you’ve utilized many different mediums artistically in the beginning, what was the one that got you started?
Dave McKean: Well, it depends what you mean by the beginning. When I was, when I was very young, I was drawing all the time.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. So that was just toying with whatever came to hand already. But then I fell in love with comic books when I was about eight. You know, I wants to join like that really. So I wanted to draw with you know, black line drawings. And then when I went to her, just everything changed because [00:01:00] there’s a world of you’re introduced to a world of different possibilities.
So I tried painting, drawing, and photography and printmaking and filmmaking and everything opened up then.
Melissa: That’s great. Now when, how did you meet Neil Gaiman and what inspired you to, to start working together?
Dave McKean: I was still in art school. I had made some comics with a couple of friends of mine there who were also fans and we made four four issues of a comic called meanwhile together.
And they were seen by subeditors in London. And so I ended up working on actually a magazine that never happened in the end. It was called borderline. It was a group of people working on it. And many of them have gone into. Being professional writers and illustrators, and one of them was Neil.
And he was writing, I think two or three of the stories I was writing and illustrating two of the stories. And during the editorial meetings, we’d all get together once a [00:02:00] month and show each other what we’d been doing. We just got talking and like, what. Each other was doing. And then Neil had written historical violence cases.
He was in a writer’s workshop at the time and gave it to me to read and I thought it would make a good book and the Domino’s carry on falling from there.
Melissa: Okay. The rest is history. Yeah. So you also illustrated Arkham asylum, which was written by Graham Morrison. It’s considered the most successful graphic novel of all time.
How did you two approach that book creatively. And why do you think it still resonates
Dave McKean: today? Well, this, I think the scripts had been hanging around a while. I certainly wasn’t the first person to to be sent it. And I’m, I’m never really been certainly as an adult, not much of a, of a superhero fan, but I thought there was some interesting stuff in it, in the writing, but I really needed to talk to grant about it.
So I got together with grant for lunch and we were both at a similar point, I think, where we both. Wanted to try [00:03:00] new things and bring in other influences to what we were doing. We both liked writers like Dennis Potter, or we both liked strange films, young Schmank minds, animations and things like that.
And we wanted to bring in some of those influences. And I think we fancied doing something that wasn’t just a straight. Batman story or superhero story, something that was more of an, an expressionistic story or a dream or nightmare. And so it just developed from there really, and it was at a wonderful time in mainstream comics where we got, we had a lot of leeway and they were very happy for us to experiment and just try new things.
I’m not sure that book could really be done now. Everything is clamped down a lot more. But at the time it was very open editorially. So we were free to play.
Melissa: That’s great. So you had a lot of creative freedom that
Dave McKean: you had almost complete creative freedom, really?
Melissa: Wow. I probably made this, the experience special in
Dave McKean: itself.
It was a very enjoyable year. I really [00:04:00] enjoyed trying new things and pushing it as far as I felt we could take it without breaking it completely. Yeah,
Melissa: that’s awesome. Yeah, you’ve done so many interesting things. I want to touch a little bit on as much as I can with time a lot, but you designed projections also for list step the Broadway musical.
What was that like? And was Ann Rice involved in that at all?
Dave McKean: Strange one for you to pick Again, as a, as a sort of working experience, it was mostly great fun. I was working with some of the most some of the best Broadway technicians, projection, people, lighting people, costume people The it was amazing having Bernie talk and around L John was only around a couple of times, but only talking was that all the time.
Wow. He was wonderful. He was really on top of it. Desperately trying to make it as best as he could. I never met Anne rice. I had, no, I don’t even know whether she saw it. And in the end, [00:05:00] honestly, it was, it was dreadful. And deserve to close after five or six weeks. And there were reasons why it was so bad but they are out of my hands really.
And for my side of it, which was about creating images on stage. And initially it was about projections and various things. I had a great time doing it.
Melissa: Okay. Yeah, it sounded like it would be a fun project to work on with just a lot of different things you could explore.
Dave McKean: Yeah. I mean, it’s always a shame at the end of it when you feel like you’ve come away with nothing.
But, but the experience, it would be nice if it had been a better peace or if it had lasted a bit longer, but in the end it was a one of life’s. You have to chop these things up to experience, but as an experience of doing it, it was good.
Melissa: It was fun. Yeah. Well, and you’ve also created CD covers for artists you know, Tori Amos, counting crows, just to name a few.
So what is how does that differ when you’re creating a CD cover from the process of creating a book cover,
Dave McKean: Well you get to listen [00:06:00] to the music for starters. And the thing about music is it’s an emotional response. It just goes straight in. You don’t have to work out what the plot is, or you know, what the writer is trying to say.
You put on the music and you immediately start to see images and. Colors and ideas. And so I love that about music, but I can, I can spend a day even doing music that I wouldn’t normally listen to, but you, you have an emotional response to it. So that’s great. During a book cover is much more involved in reading.
You got to read the book, you’ve got to get into it and, and try and come up with something that suggests the book without just. Putting a picture from this you know, a scene of the book on the, on the cover. That’s very boring thing. That’s a sort of window into the atmosphere or the thought of the room or what was trying to say.
So that’s rather more involved. Okay.
Melissa: Does that set the tone for the, the album, I guess?
Dave McKean: Yes.
Melissa: Awesome. And so did that [00:07:00] influence you at all to find, or you founded a record label, feral records and what kind of music do you produce and, and did that have any, the album covers have any influence on your decision to get into that?
Dave McKean: Well, I love you. I mean, I play music, so music’s been a big part of my life since I was a kid that was big, my big life choice, really to, to pursue professionally music or art. And I tried to keep the two in balance as long as I could, but then just got very busy as an Australian. And the music had to be.
For, for just personal really but recently I’ve got back to bringing in music into the films that I’ve been making and performance pieces. So that’s been great. But I love jazz and I have a good friend in Bellamy and we’ve done a lot of things together now. And he was looking for a home, so we thought we’d start a label for basically pretty avid gods Scandinavian, jazz.
It’s a very niche [00:08:00] audience. I think we know most of the people report about our albums personally, but I love the records. They we’ve only done a handful. I think we’ve released nine albums now. But I’ve loved the music and I’ve been really enjoying. Creating the packaging. The first one was for Aaron’s band called food.
And we did a box with postcards and all sorts of things in the box, but we also put a little twist and pastor. In some of the boxes I leave for a dry chili and we’ve got a great review from somebody who said that they really loved the music. And if you buy 50, 60 copies, you get a free meal and two out of it as
I love that. That’s a great idea. So you’re also, I mean, there’s so many things you’re a talented photographer. You have several photography books out. How has photography shaped your perspective and your view as a, as an artist when you’re drawing.
Dave McKean: Well, I’d started playing with photography at art school.
I still take reference photographs all the time and [00:09:00] I still, every time I travel, I take lots of photographs and have a sort of huge library of images that I draw on for covers and whatever they needed for. So photography is just bound into my process really. And more recently, well, I say recently in the last 10.
12 years. I’m trying to get away from having so much of a sense of the photograph in the drawings and paintings that I can make, which has left a sort of nice hole for photography to be its own thing. It’s not just part of my process in creating a painting. It’s it’s its own thing. So I’ve done photography, exhibitions, and.
Published four books. I’m working on another one now. And the more I do it, the more I’m happy for it just to be for the, for the photographs, just to be photographs. They’re not trying to look like illustrations or looking like surreal images. They’re just images that I take, the photographs that I take the places a lot at the moment.
And it’s you know, part of my image bank.
[00:10:00] Melissa: Do you do color and black and white?
Dave McKean: I do you know, whatever’s needed really I shoot everything in color. But the books that I’ve done, the first two were black and white or color CP the color. And the more recent ones have been in full color.
Melissa: Okay, nice. And speaking of that, you’ve, you’ve also won multiple James Beard awards for the fat dot cookbook and historical Huston. So how, how did you get involved in that? And have you always been interested in working with food artistically?
Dave McKean: Well, I’ve enjoyed, I’ve always enjoyed food. But I got involved with working with Heston Blumenthal through my publisher.
Children’s both did Bloomsbury press and he was looking to produce his first cookbook for the fat dog. And he won. He loves Alice in Wonderland. That’s one of the major texts in his imagination. Wanted his book to [00:11:00] have a. A children’s book, fantastical, Alice in Wonderland, feel to it. So he asked you that too, to give him some children’s books to try and find a collaborator.
And the like mine, he likes a book. I did called wolves in the walls with Neil Gaiman. And so I met him. We immediately got on, I immediately. You what he was doing. I just had an absolute sympatric feel with them what he was trying to achieve. And I did some mock illustrations that I thought would be the sort of sorts of things we could do with the book.
And he immediately liked those. And we just got on ever since we’re still working together, we’ve done two huge books. And I’ve done murals for the restaurants and package design for the different restaurants, but I’ve also designed the narrative element. My official title is director of story fat duck, because there was a whole narrative element to your lunch or evening meal you [00:12:00] have there.
It’s not, you can’t just show up and have bourbon chips. You’ve got to sit down for four hours and be taken into this world. And there’s a narrative. Strong narrative component, and we deliver those through props and flavors and food combinations. And also the stories that sort of encouraged out of the diamonds by the waiters.
So it’s very complicated, but it’s, it’s a completely unique experience.
Melissa: That sounds really fascinating. Where, so, so can anybody just go in, do you have to have a reservation? Is, is that a restaurant where, you know, you need to book three months in advance, that kind of a thing.
Dave McKean: Yes. You need a reservation.
If you want to, if you want a weekend, if you want a Saturday evening. Yes. You’d probably have to book a three months in advance and you’d be lucky to get a table. If you want a weekday lunch. You give them three weeks. You probably get a table. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. [00:13:00]
Dave McKean: It’s a sort of place, you know, you go to once in a lifetime, many people because it’s a legendary place. Now it’s one of the very best restaurants in the world. People save up to go and have a very, very special time there. And because he personalizes the experience so much, when you book, you’re encouraged to talk to the Reception staff and they ask you various questions and tease out bits of information about you booking it.
Or if there’s a birthday involved, then the whole experience becomes very, very close and we’ve had some extraordinary experiences
Melissa: there. That’s awesome. Now, do you find because of your work with that, have you been approached by other restauranters wanting you to help them with their menus and promotion.
Dave McKean: I have done, I have been asked to do a couple of other things. They never really been as good though. They’ve always been just, you know, adding a few pretty pictures to something that’s already there. It’s not the same as working with Heston where I agree to feel [00:14:00] embedded in the process now. And there’s the, there’s a restaurant not far from me.
It’s a Mexican restaurant and I’ve done all their images and menus and postcards, but that’s, that’s been an old favorite of mine. And I started going there. I don’t know, 20, 25 years ago. And they’re still using all my stuff. So that’s the only other sort of special one.
Melissa: Okay. So it’s more of like a neighborhood place that you feel a kinship to.
Dave McKean: It is that you can just drop in there anytime. Look at my posters on the wall.
Melissa: No, well I’d have to, you know, I have to talk about mirror mask. Cause the guys that swear the country would kill me if I didn’t. What inspired you and gaming to create mirror mask and you know, how did you conceptualize it?
Dave McKean: It was an opportunity really. Lisa Henson, who is Jim Henson’s daughter. Was producing and she had a two picture deal with Sony and one of the films was a Muppet film. So that was all taken care of. But the other film, they [00:15:00] talked about trying to make another fantasy film in the spirit. Of Jim Henson’s labyrinth, not crystal.
They had a tiny budget. They had something like a 20th of the budget of those films to play with. And they weren’t sure how they could possibly do that. But Lisa had, had already knew Neil because I think they’d been kicking around the idea of adapting Neverwhere so. They, they were already talking. And then Lisa had seen my short films that were at various film festivals that I made for literally nothing.
And OCI thought maybe the turbos could cook up something. With you know, Neal’s established a name as a Patsy writer and my ability to turn the sorts of images that I was making his illustrations into moving pictures. So we took two weeks out. We have a little window of opportunity where we could pitch our idea to Columbia before it all went away.
[00:16:00] So it was Columbia Tri-Star, which is part of Sony. And so we took two weeks. We spent two weeks together in Lisa’s house, in in Hampstead. And Jay wrote a script from scratch. We, we both brought ideas to the table. We both bought, brought scenes to the table and ideas for what it could be. I brought some music and I brought some books, images to look at.
And every day we just wrote scenes and then slowly. Well actually rather quickly put it all together. And at the end of the two weeks we had a script and how did it over and what I expected them to say was good. Okay. It’s got some interesting stuff in it now that you, you know, you, you, you prove that you’ve got some interest in stuff go away for.
Three months and writing properly or they come back. But actually what they said was great. Let’s do that. And they wrote us a check. And so we were in shock [00:17:00] really, and we didn’t want to jinx it. So yeah.
Melissa: Well, it does happen often
Dave McKean: that never happens, but actually what, it would have been much better, really to, to take those three months and say, okay, what in here?
It’s working and what could be stronger. And it’s an awful lot of it, but I think that would be stronger.
Melissa: Right. But it does have quite a cult following. It’s a very popular,
Dave McKean: It does it. Okay. I come from the occasional person who tells me they like it, but I haven’t really noticed that.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah.
Well I, I have to ask you, what about one aspect in your creative process for it? You, you hand drew thousands of fish. Why, why did you decide to do that by hand?
Dave McKean: I don’t, I didn’t do that. Where did you get that from?
Melissa: Oh, interesting. Okay. Well, I got bad, a bad source.
Dave McKean: Yeah. It was one had a drone sequence.
I little story within the story. But but they were [00:18:00] sort of two 2d, 3d animated. They weren’t they weren’t hand drawn. No, it wasn’t handled innovation. So to speak. It was all, it was all 3d animation. Although I did design it all and I did do lots of storyboards, hundreds of storyboards. I didn’t draw anything directly in the film.
Melissa: Okay. Okay. So do you tend to, when you’re doing a film I mean, I guess because of the process of it, you use mostly like computer graphics essentially.
Dave McKean: Yes. Yes, it will. It was so it was computer graphics, but, but done made to look handmade. That’s what I wanted to that’s the field that I wanted it to have. I wanted it to look like my illustrations, which are, have made, I still draw and paint everything. So rather than that very slick photographic photo real look that most CG has.
I just wanted the textures to feel like. Paintings or rust or wood or, [00:19:00] you know, handmade objects.
Melissa: Yeah. I want, I think that definitely resonates because the, the visuals are very unique. You know, it doesn’t look like every other, you know, film that’s out there. So I think you achieved that,
Dave McKean: you know, possibly it was, was budgetary or they it’s cheaper to do that rather than Do photo real stuff, because that’s very processor intensive.
It takes a lot of time, which therefore takes a lot of money, but also it, it, it comes out of the script. The idea was that the young girl had, I know, center of it. Drawn or drawn this city on a wall. So it was scraps of paper and little, little paintings and little bits of collage scattered all across our wall.
And that was the city. So when you actually enter that city, it should have, it should still have that handmade hand-drawn quality.
Melissa: That feel to it. Yeah, definitely. And a lot of your work centers around fantasy and the esoteric of those themes that you’ve always been drawn to?
Dave McKean: No, not really.
I, I, [00:20:00] I really don’t like the fantasy label. Uh Hmm. Anymore. And I I was always a bit wary of it, but now I, I really don’t like it at all. Not because there isn’t a fantastical element to what I do at Oregon imaginative element or a trained life element. There’s certainly years. But I’m not interested in stories that are just fantasy worlds, unrelated to the real world.
Okay. Stories about monsters and ELLs and fairies and go. So really I’m not interested in, but stories about the way that we interpret the world and the dreams that we have about the world and the, you know, the feelings that we have about the world that could be expressed in imaginative or dream-like, or, you know, slightly fantastical ways then absolutely.
That, that that’s my realm. But I’m really not interested in pure fantasy.
Melissa: Okay, well, let’s talk about one of your, your newer works. You’re a graphic novel Raptor published by dark horse. What can you tell us [00:21:00] about the story? Is it a standalone or the beginning of a new series?
Dave McKean: I I’ve set it up to be potentially some kind of series.
It would, it would, it would be at most it would be a sort of series of standalone stories but featuring the same character and I wanted a character. Who represents me really trapped in this, this place between two worlds the world of dream and the imagination and, and fantastical imagery but also reality just.
Every day stories about things that affect us all. Try growing up, growing aging, dealing with grief, dealing with, dealing, with becoming a parent, dealing with you know, all of these things that affect us all these little. These are the things that I’m fascinated by. But I want to find ways of.
Looking at these subjects through a different lens. So this character is sort of trapped between the state of a bird-like state, a bird of prey, [00:22:00] like state and a human like state. And he makes his living hunting. Creatures in a storm fantastical realm, but all the time, he seems to be in touch with people in our real world.
And so the story takes place in two, two places. One of them is this sort of strange, strange fantastical realm. And one of them is late 19th century Wales. Where a Welsh shoulder writer has lost his wife and in a state of grief, trying to see her again in, in a, in a world beyond ours, actually, it, he doesn’t think it exists and I don’t either, but in the state of brief that he finds himself, that’s what he desires.
He wants there to be a place beyond this world where he can see his wife again.
Melissa: Okay. And is this book available now
Dave McKean: to purchase [00:23:00] it’s published next year,
Melissa: next year. Okay. Wonderful. To have the pre-orders started.
Dave McKean: I think he’s only just been announced. So I, I doubt it
Melissa: adjustment. Oh, so this is really fresh.
Okay, perfect. Well, we’ll keep an eye out for it. And then I want to ask too about your cause, you know, your stuff is so, like you said, dreamlike, and I’m curious about. The different places that you draw inspiration from, is there a specific sort of source that you find yourself always returning to when you’re looking for, you know, a specific inspiration?
Dave McKean: Well, it depends what it is. If it’s my own stories, they tend to come from. Just things that I’ve become obsessed with. And those things are real life things that happened to me or friends of mine. So I made a film called Luna, which was about a couple losing a baby and dealing with that.
And I made a graphic novel [00:24:00] recently called black dog. The dreams, support Nash, which is about an artist called Paul, the artist, Paul Nash, British artists, who was a war artist and his experience of the first world war fundamentally changing him as a person and discovering himself. It’s one of, again, it’s sort of fantastic images and, and works, you know, imaginative ideas, but it’s very much based in the real world.
So those are the things that inspire me. But then when it comes to. You know, finding images, whether it’s for an album cover or a book cover, it comes out of whatever that source material is. So it’s listening to the music or reading the text, something in there will tell me what that image needs to be.
Melissa: And for your own stuff, as we call it dreamlike to ever actually get inspiration from dreams. Like if you had a dream, that’s woken you up in the middle of the night and thought, Oh, I need to write that down.
Dave McKean: Very rarely, really most I’ve managed to sort out my dreams in, in waking life. I think. So I tend not to dream that [00:25:00] much.
But occasional ones have really struck me and wraps that comes out of it. One that hung around for a long time, I woke up one morning, you know, in that feeling that there’s something really awfully wrong. And it was actually there’s clouded my head. I just couldn’t shake it. And it was, it was, it was sourced in the dream that I’d had that night, which was about my wife being two people.
And I loved both of them and they were different. There are different aspects of her. And I love them both because they both, you know, it’s like woke up with a thing that I had used between them once I didn’t get real, real life. And it really struck me and I felt really low down, kept on having to remind myself that it was just a dream.
And I had no reason to feel like this. So a lot of those feelings went into.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, yeah, it’s amazing how dreams can stick with you for a while. You know what, it’s amazing what our subconscious, you know, stores.
[00:26:00] Dave McKean: It is another idea. There’s so, so another story or another dream source, another story, because it’s very hard.
It was a very strong, emotional dream. I had a long time ago and he agreed and the feeling, and it really struck me because it was quite frightening. I woke up knowing I killed somebody. I haven’t killed it. I, it was absolutely profound feeling that I had done that. And then you start to beat what really is the difference between this deep knowledge from this stream that I’d kill somebody and actually having killed somebody.
What is the real difference? I mean, that’d be a, that’d be a missing person, but if that person was never missed by anybody and it’s just lying in the ground. So, but I was really more, we thought I realized, but. But really quite a strange nagging thought. What is the fundamental difference between the two?
So that’s sort of another story that I’m launching.
Melissa: Okay. Interesting. [00:27:00] Yeah. Well, when you mentioned that, it reminds me of just some of the philosophical quandaries that we’ve studied over the years and, and just that whole concept of what is consciousness really.
Dave McKean: Yeah. And I’m really interested in, in the way people think and.
For example, what it takes to change your mind. I think it’s really interesting at the moment how embedded many people are in a, in a bunker of thinking and they, and confirmation bias just based them down in that particular mode of thought. And there’s just no way of them looking through somebody else’s eyes and lucky the argument in a different way, or even considering that.
No, they not be completely correct, but they might be fundamentally wrong about something. So I also want to write a story that deals with that. What does it take to change
Melissa: and just, would that be kind of relating to modern times and the way society is right now?
[00:28:00] Dave McKean: We absolutely will be related to that because I’ve never known a more polarized time.
I’m sure there have been other times like this and I’m sure. Yeah. That w people have always had conversations like this, but the structures that bed betters into this bunker of thought at the moment seem to be so strong. I think social media and the internet is a real problem at the moment. Things about the internet, but the negatives are really powerful and we’re only just starting to really deal with them.
And I think yeah, I, I think it’s a really strange and crucial time at the moment. And I want to write something about it. It seems like it seems urgent to write something about the times we’re living in.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, and when the concepts you know, of truth is sort of at risk, you know, cause there doesn’t seem to be any like general universal truth.
It’s just what everybody else wants to. [00:29:00] Perceptual, you know truth in their minds.
Dave McKean: Yeah, I think it’s because, I mean, there’s several reasons, but I think one of them is immediate that we take a sense of the world from used to be. Pretty much a single story. Yes. It was slanted slightly to the left or slightly to the right or slightly from one angle or another, but there was a basic consensus of what reality was.
And you wrote, you wrote about that re reality from your particular slump, but now that’s been dismantled and discredited. You know, in, in England we have BBC and I’m still a huge fan of BBC. They get a lot wrong, but they’re huge. And complicated corporation and they’re bound to make mistakes, but essentially I think they do an extraordinary job.
And the fact that they’re constantly criticized from both sides as being. Irretrievably right-wing or irretrievably left with me either. They’re probably doing something about right. You know, they they’re balancing in the middle of their, about like [00:30:00] and both many people now refuse to listen to that sort of central narrative.
Even if you disagree with it, you, you are aware of it. They just are unaware of it. They, they will only take them information from sources that agree with what they already think. And that’s really dangerous. I think.
Melissa: Absolutely. You know, and here in the U S we have, you know, the sort of dueling news teams like Fox and CNN.
And you mentioned you have the BBC in the UK. Is there another big famous, you know, news source that sort of goes against what the BBC puts out?
Dave McKean: No that the television sources generally not bad, the pouches here and a few others are good. It’s the presser appalling the press are all owned by a billionaire, you know, non Dom.
Ultra right-wing ultra capitalist owners, the Murdochs of this world. And you know, if anybody’s [00:31:00] responsible for the destruction of public discourse, it’s the the press in this country. There’s a couple of papers who are still independent and I read them and I try and read the others as well. So I have a sense of what they’re saying, but it’s deeply depressing.
Melissa: Yes. Yeah. And it is hard to, to know if what you’re reading is correct. You know a lot of the times, I mean, you know, you have your, your valuable news sources, but there’s just so much misinformation out there. And for people that might, might not know how to sift through that, you can see how dangerous that could be.
Dave McKean: Yes. And so, I mean, I think you can only reach some sense of reality from a consensus. You should never take all your information from one source. You should across many sources, actually as many sources as you can stand and somewhere in amongst all that, you’ll start to see. Elements of like overlapping, you know, lattices, lattices of [00:32:00] story, the remote, there are bits that are in escape of the true that start to build up a sense of solidity.
And the other stuff is is, is just either blatantly untrue or. An angle that is clearly very, very slanted one way or the other, but the essence of the story you know, starts to appear many, many times across these different sources. So that’s, I mean, that’s, that’s the best thing to do, really read as many sources as possible and, and try and read.
You know sign up and try and read things that, you know, you’ll disagree with. So you have a sense of what the opposing argument is.
Melissa: Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. Now, do you feel that this climate and the pandemic has affected you at all as an artist creatively?
Dave McKean: W well, I mean, obviously it’s affected me in terms of being aware of it.
I check in, [00:33:00] read the paper every morning, wash a newspaper every evening. So I have a sense of what’s going on. And obviously it’s a cooling, I have many friends who are having a really tough time. Elderly people or orientate elderly people and or looking up the children or looking out for themselves, they’re not very well or working in the front line of the medical profession.
And I have friends who’ve had it. I don’t, fortunately I don’t know anybody who just died a bit. I know some people who’ve had some really tough times having. Cool tips. So it’s obviously out there and it’s a concern it’s, you know, it’s in your mind all the time, but I live in the middle of nowhere.
So I’m very lucky. Think that basically self isolated life anyway I had a year’s worth of work, set up books and a couple of exhibitions things. So I’ve just been cracking on with that really. And I think that’s all you can do. I don’t want to spend my life online and watching the [00:34:00] news and dwelling on it because then I just do nothing at all.
So I try and compartmentalize my day and spend a bit of time everyday, just making, getting a sense of what’s going on in the world, but then just try and put it to one side and get on with mine.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah, no, because the internet can be a creative zapper just in itself.
Dave McKean: It can. Yeah. I mean, I really think it’s mostly a waste of time and social media cause I really don’t see.
I don’t see the value of it. I don’t think. I don’t think Facebook and Twitter is a place to get into any kind of serious. Did they ignore it?
Melissa: And another thing I wanted to ask you about many artists struggle with imposter syndrome, even sometimes after achieving success. Is that something you’ve ever seen?
Dave McKean: That’s really strange. A lot of people seem to be talking about imposter syndrome these days. Maybe it’s a [00:35:00] virus. I, I, I can’t say I do a lot. I’ve always had this. And when I, certainly, when I started, I remember simultaneously thinking, why would anybody give me a joke? Because there’s so many terrific illustrators around, well, the chance.
A complete newcomer fresh, but why would anybody give me a job? Well, but simultaneously thinking, well, I can do better than that. You know, I can see some things that are just dreadful to me. I’m sure I can do better than that. So I always had a slightly arrogant side and a slightly not worthy. I’ll never get a job site and I’ve managed to sort of keep those two personalities going, but generally.
Generally now feel reasonably secure with what I can do, what I can’t do, where my weaknesses are, where my [00:36:00] strengths are. And I, I’m much more focused on attention to the things that I really can do and stand a chance of doing well rather than wasting time on stuff that I think is. Trivial or doesn’t use it, doesn’t use my skills well, or or that I’m just no good at.
Melissa: Right. Would you say that you because I’ve heard different methods of doing it are you one that likes to sort of create when inspiration strikes or do you create a routine for yourself where you get up every day at a certain time and say, okay, these hours of the day, I’m going to work on projects.
Dave McKean: What seems to work for me is to have a, quite a, quite a structured day quite a structured life ready, but within that structure, the, the periods of time where I’ve set aside to work on things totally chaotic. I have no idea. Where are they going to go, what they’re going to be, or, or what I’m going to [00:37:00] end up doing?
But so long as I can do that within quite a structured day it seems to work really well. I get a lot done.
Melissa: Okay, awesome. Now. And what advice would you give to, to artists that are coming up and want to, you know, have a career such as yourself? What advice would you give to them?
Dave McKean: Don’t definitely don’t do that.
I’ve no idea really, because the world is so different now from the one that I started. I, you know, there were, there wasn’t an internet when I started, there were, it was barely digital. I, I was established before I bought a computer, my first computer in 93. So all this changed completely there in some areas.
The, the, the work that you could do as a beginning illustrator or designer or whatever, it just doesn’t exist anymore. Whereas other areas have popped up there’s brand new openings and possibilities of showing work that weren’t around [00:38:00] when I was starting. So it’s very difficult to say. I think for me, the main thing is I would S.
Advice I would give anybody is prioritize your own personal work. It’s very easy to either get lost in the thought of what other people want and trying to put portfolios together of what you think will be successful or what you think. Other people. Won’t and then when you start to get jobs, feel that you need to just keep on feeding that and your own work has to be shuffled down the schedule because it’s not necessarily immediately making money for you or, you know but I think that’s a real mistake.
I think you really have to prioritize your own work in your life because in the end, that’s the word that you feel most satisfied with? And we’ll give you the most feedback nourishment, and also anything that you do that is worth a damn, that you [00:39:00] have a real passion for will eventually pay you back, actually pay you back.
People will see it and say, that’s wonderful when you do something like that for us. So prioritize your own work. Okay.
Melissa: That’s good advice. Really good. Really good advice. Well, and finally, before we go, I just wanted to ask you one question and this might be a hard one to answer, or maybe not, but looking back to when you first started till now what’s some of the most important lesson that you’ve learned.
Dave McKean: Well, apart from that one you know, making sure that I pay attention to what I want to do. My own voice not getting, not getting stuck in a, in a stylistic row. That’s important. It w it was very, it would have been very easy to carry on doing sort of painted superhero books because the first ones that I did was so successful, but that, so obviously a dead end.
And so obviously something that I would just get. Bored of and locked into. I had to get away from it immediately. So that’s why [00:40:00] I did a book called cages, which is almost the complete opposite of that. It’s very simple black line drawings. I wrote it not superhero in sight and it’s just the book that I really wanted to exist.
So that’s an important one. What else? Starting things, finishing things is always good. I, I tend to be very bad at making plans and, and not getting around to actually starting them. But you must do that. You must just start thinking and then once it started, it’s very easy to get sidetracked and, you know, you have the first five pages of your great novel stuck in a drawer for years.
You must must finish those things. Because actually. Rather than, you know, worrying about each piece of work being perfect and summing you up as an individual. Well, it actually sums you up in the end. It’s your body of work. So by starting things and finishing things and accumulating the body of work, you look back on it now, 30 years down the line, and all of it defines you.
[00:41:00] And it’s the fact that you have. Created all of these things and gone to all of these places and had all of these thoughts. That’s what defines
Melissa: you? Well, that was really well said. I really, I’ve not heard it quite put like that before. And I really, that’s very inspiring.
Dave McKean: Okay. Yeah.
Melissa: So I also, I looked up for just to make sure with Raptor, I wanted to get the right release dates and everything for you.
So for, for our listeners it is. Available in bookstores, July 7th of next year. And I’m sorry. Comic book stores, July Sabbath and bookstores on July 20th. And it looks like we can pre-order it now. So I definitely want to make sure everyone gets on there too. It’s a pre-order Raptor from dark horse and Dave McKean.
And also you can go to Dave mckean.com if you want to learn more about him. And you’ve got it, a lot of great stuff on your website. I saw also your collection nitrate, which you did, I’m [00:42:00] inspired by the silent film posters, which I think is just fantastic. That was that’s incredible. How did you just real quick before we go, how did you decide to focus in on that for that collection?
Dave McKean: Well, I’ve been working on that for a long time. I love I’ve loved slalom films again, since I was very young the films themselves, but the images, those sort of strange elusive Misty ghost-like images really got under my skin when I was young. And I’ve been, I’ve been working it out ever since. So I’ve been making drawings and paintings inspired by.
The films that I’ve found over the years I’ve done a lot of them and I’m still working on them. And there’s an exhibition up at the moment. You tend to reef of some of those paintings and drawings and gallery art is, are, and the book collecting them all. We’ll be out next year.
Melissa: Awesome. Well, you’ve definitely taken us on a journey with your, with your work.
And there’s so many different mediums that you can find David Kane’s work in. So [00:43:00] I highly suggest everybody go check it out on his website. You’ll find links to everything on there, and they use so much for coming on spoiler country today.
Absolutely. Well, you take care, have a wonderful rest of your day. And again, thank you so much. Come back anytime. Thank you. Bye bye.
Dave McKean: Okay.