Born in Maidenhead, England, Dave McKean is one of the leading comic authors active today. Not only does he excel in the graphic side of the medium, designing virtuoso mixed media images, but also he has many fine stories to tell. It is a perfect combination that is not encountered very often.
Black Orchid (1991)
In the early days of his career, after finishing art school, McKean started out like any young artist. Hungry to prove himself, he showed off his baroque painting techniques in the eco-thriller 'Black Orchid' (1988) and the Batman comic 'Arkham Asylum' (1989) to immediate effect: both books proved to be instant best-sellers. The young man who just left art school in no time found himself to be one of the main fan favorites in comics.
Besides the production of his spectacular mainstream comics, McKean ambitiously kept busy with loads of other projects. Best-known of these are his legendary covers for the 'Sandman' comics (1989-1996), written by his friend Neil Gaiman. After the completion of this best-selling fantasy series, McKean's covers, digitally manipulated images of painting with scraps of ripped-up lace and over-exposed photographs, were collected in the volume 'Sandman Dust Covers'. In addition to digitally manipulating these 'Sandman' covers, McKean experimented with more personal comics stories scripted by Gaiman. These range from the early meditation on human memory-cum-mafia story 'Violent Cases' (1987) to later stories on the death of a film director (in 'Signal to Noise') and the imagination of childhood years ('Mr. Punch').
The turning point in McKean's career is the hefty 500-page comic 'Cages', in which he elaborated his views on art, life and recipes for ratatouille. Besides being one of the greatest achievements in comics history, 'Cages' marked the divide between the driven graphic artist who does not seem to be hindered by any technical limitations and the thoughtful, self-conscious artist who knows that restraining his capabilities leads to the finest work. In 'Cages' McKean used no more than two colors and an efficient brush line to tell the bulk of the story. Only occasionally did his trademark wild color work come in to add visual emphasis to key moments in the story. McKean serialized 'Cages' in 10 issues between 1990 and 1996.
After the publication of a single volume 'Cages' book by Kitchen Sink Press in 1998, McKean took a lengthy break from comics. Touching on photography, painting, film and graphic design, the man proved himself to be a full-fledged visual artist, happy to put any medium to his hand. He continued to work with Gaiman by illustrating his delightful children's picture books'The Day I Swapped My Dad for a Goldfish' (1998), and 'The Wolves in the Walls' (2003), as well as the children's novels Coraline (2002) and The Graveyard Book (2008). They also collaborated on the screenplay of McKean's 2005 film 'MirrorMask' and on the TV mini-series 'Neverwhere' (1996).
A jazz musican himself, Dave McKean has designed CD covers for a variety of artists, including Tori Amos, Alice Cooper, Buckethead, John Cale and Dream Theater. His art and designs have graced stamps, book covers, posters, and Heston Blumenthal's cook book 'Fat Duck Cookbook'. He was a concept artist on two 'Harry Potter' films, and the director of a number of music videos, TV intro's and short films.
Postcards from Brussels
McKean has also created a few books documenting his travels using only illustrations. These include 'Postcards from Vienna', 'Postcards from Barcelona', 'Postcards from Paris' (2008), and 'Postcards from Brussels' (2009). By 2011, McKean ventured in the territory of erotica with the graphic novel 'Celluloid', published by Fantagraphics.