McKean, David (Jeff) 1963-
McKEAN, David (Jeff) 1963-
PERSONAL: Born 1963, in Maidenhead, England; wife's name, Claire; two children. Education: Graduated from Berkshire College of Art and Design, 1986.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 1350 Avenue of Americas, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Artist. Organizer, with others, of Unauthorised Sex Company, England, c. 1990; Time-Warner International, designer and animator; Wormwood Studios, director of short films. Designer and illustrator of book covers and album and CD covers for artists, including Tori Amos, Bill Laswell, Buckethead, and Bill Bruford. McKean's art has been featured on calendars and postcards, including The Café Des Amis Du Mexique Postcard Set, published by the Café Des Amis, Hourglass, and Allen Spiegal Fine Arts, 1999, and on tarot cards, including The Particle Tarot: The Major Arcana, Hourglass and Allen Spiegal Fine Arts, and, with Rachel Pollack, The Vertigo Tarot, Vertigo Comics.
AWARDS, HONORS: World Fantasy Award for best artist, 1991.
AS DAVE MCKEAN
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, Violent Cases, Titan (London, England), 1987, Tundra (Northampton, MA), 1991, third edition, Kitchen Sink Press (Northampton, MA), 1997.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, Black Orchid, 1988.
(Illustrator) Grant Morrison, Arkham Asylum, Titan (London, England), 1989.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, Signal to Noise, Gollancz (London, England), 1992.
(Illustrator with others) Neil Gaiman, Death: The High Cost of Living, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1994.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance, DC Comics/Vertigo (New York, NY), 1994.
A Small Book of Black and White Lies (photographs), 1995.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, Dustcovers (collected Sandman covers, 1989-1997), DC Comics/Vertigo (New York, NY), 1997.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (juvenile), Borealis (Clarkston, GA), 1997.
(Illustrator) Iain Sinclair, Slow Chocolate Autopsy: Incidents from the Notorious Career of Norton, Prisoner of London, Phoenix House (London, England), 1997.
Cages, Kitchen Sink Press (Northampton, MA), 1998.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, Coraline (juvenile), Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2002.
(Illustrator) Neil Gaiman, The Wolves in the Walls, Harper Collins (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of Pictures That Tick and Option: Click (photographs); illustrator of comic series, including "Hellblazer" and "Sandman," and of hundreds of other comic books, including Voodoo Lounge (with the Rolling Stones). Contributor to periodicals, including the New Yorker.
SIDELIGHTS: Dave McKean is best known for the illustrations he has provided for covers and graphic novels, especially those of friend Neil Gaiman, but McKean's talent extends to photography, painting, model-building, and digital and graphic design. He is a visual artist who expresses himself through a multitude of mediums. McKean has toured Europe and America with his work, for which he has earned many awards. He lives in England with his wife, children, and pets, including a flock of sheep.
McKean was first introduced to mass audiences with his painted art in Gaiman's graphic novel Arkham Asylum, a "Batman" adventure based on the movie. Roger Sabin reviewed the hardcover comic in New Statesman & Society, saying that "McKean's artwork is often breathtaking—veering from gloomy photo-realism to brightly-coloured Steadmanesque abstraction."
The illustrations for Gaiman's graphic novels Violent Cases, Black Orchid, Signal to Noise, Death: The High Cost of Living, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance came next. The last employs Punch and Judy puppet-like storytelling in its look at a boy's entry into adult life. "This stunning comic book-graphic novel—whatever—is easily the most haunting, inescapable story I've read in years," wrote Frank McConnell in Commonweal.
McKean also created all seventy-five covers for Gaiman's "Sandman" series, which were collected and published in book form by DC Comics. McKean and Gaiman also collaborated on a picture book that incorporates ink, paint, and pencil-drawn figures with photographs, newsprint, and other bits to make up The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. In the book an uninvolved father finds himself being traded for the pets. Another of their books for children is Coraline, about a little girl who crosses over into another dimension.
Perhaps McKean's most ambitious project is Cages, a collection of books originally published sporadically from 1991 to 1996. Here McKean is both illustrator and writer, producing a 496-page hardcover done in shades of black and gray, with one-color sequence. The stories are linked by a black cat, who wanders in and out, and take place in an apartment building where the newest tenant is Leo Sabarsky, a painter.
Time Online reviewer Andrew D. Arnold noted that Leo meets Jonathan Rush, "a secretive, Salman Rushdie-like writer whose latest book incites riots. Completing the traditional arts, Angel, a musician who can make stones sing, lives there too. Mixing Ingmar Bergman with Monty Python, strange, vaguely metaphorical characters pop in and out. … Visually, the book is stunning." McKean uses a broad range of styles, from abstract expressionism to pen and ink, to digital effects and photography. "But most important," said Arnold, "it's all done at the service of a linear narrative, the definition of comix."
"This is as much an art book as a narrative," wrote Stephen Weiner in a Library Journal review in which he also advised librarians that if they are going to purchase just one graphic novel for adults for the year, "make it this one." Gordon Flagg of Booklist concluded his review by saying that "this is a most impressive achievement that is not likely to be surpassed anytime soon."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1998, Gordon Flagg, review of Cages, p. 185.
Commonweal, December 2, 1994, Frank McConnell, review of The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance, p. 27.
Library Journal, November 15, 1998, Stephen Weiner, review of Cages, p. 64.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 1995, Charles de Lint, review of The Vertigo Tarot, p. 29; May, 1998, Charles de Lint, review of Dustcovers, p. 22.
New Statesman & Society, January 12, 1990, Roger Sabin, review of Arkham Asylum, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, February 21, 1994, review of Death: The High Cost of Living, p. 248; July 22, 2002, review of Cages, p. 160.
Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (August 27, 2002), Andrew D. Arnold, review of Cages.
Underground Online,http://www.ugo.com/ (October 19, 2002), Dan Epstein, "The Art of Dave McKean" (interview).*