Martin McKenna Interview

Martin McKenna Interview

We have an interview from Martin Mckenna who has created some great art:


CT:  What motivates you to draw?

MM: Usually a deadline.  Or the gas bill.  But, even were it not for any external forces, I’d still feel an indefinable need to create stuff.  If I don’t draw, or write, or make something new, before long I start to feel “wrong” and get a bit twitchy and uncomfortable.  If it’s not given vent it’s like a kind of creative constipation (unlike this, which is more like verbal diarrhoea).  So if I don’t draw today I’m bound to draw tomorrow, it’s a basic need.

CT: How do you stay focused?

MM: With difficulty, but on any sizeable project I tend to hit my stride after a certain point and things shift into a kind of obsessive mode.  That’s how I usually get things done, building towards an intense period of complete focus, which sustains itself for while.  Being on a roll like that is the most fun, not having to stop and start.  And then I’ll relax again and shift down before the next job if my schedule means I have to continue in work mode, or wander off entirely and engage in other pursuits.

New Fighting Fantasy

MM: Here’s that pic I did for the cover of Jon Green’s book, You Are the Hero. It shows various Fighting Fantasy villains staring and pointing. I was attempting to recall something of the cover Chris Achilleos did for the Out of the Pit book back in the ’80s.

CT: What is your average time spent on a project?

MM: This varies enormously, from a couple of days on a one-off book cover or album cover, to weeks or months illustrating a book or working on production design.  Lately, my interest has been creating picture books for children (new book ‘The Octopuppy’).  It’s the most fun I’ve had drawing in years, and some of the simpler styles I’m using can mean I’ll produce several illustrations in a day.  Most of the production time is spent trying to perfect the storyline and script, and designing the characters.  But once the foundations are in place, most of the final artwork can be completed refreshingly quickly.  The difference between this and creating the heavily rendered fantasy subjects of my earlier work is tremendous, the change is liberating.

CT: How did you learn your specific design/art software?

MM: I started working with Photoshop in 1997 while I was a full-time game concept artist at the Eidos Interactive studios.  It remains my preferred software.  Prior to that I used exclusively traditional materials.

CT: What is your favorite software tool?

MM: See above.

McKenna Sketch

MM: This one’s a Doctor Dolittle fella tinkering with a chimp’s noggin. There’s a monkey under the fella’s hat having a squabble with the cyber-parrot on his shoulder.     NOTE from CT: You can purchase a bust of this at:

CT: Do you have a favorite technique that you would like to share?

MM: Not especially — these days I’m favouring a return to a kind of simple pencil line and pen & ink wash drawing style, traditional in feel but all digital.

CT: What or who inspires your work?

MM: So many artists and illustrators, there’s so much good new stuff around.  My kids’ book material is mostly inspired by ’30s movie comedies, British kids’ comics of the ’60s, and the films of Wes Anderson.

CT: What is your creative process or how do you come up with your illustrations?

MM: Visuals are mostly defined and driven by the story, so inspiration for illustrations start there.  Add in maybe a bit of general reference material, and then I draw directly in PS using a Wacom.

CT: Do you have an image of your studio for our viewers?

MM: Currently moving studio, so unfortunately no photos right now!

CT: Any suggestions for new artists?

MM: Enjoy what you do and keep doing it.  Try and stay true to your own style, finding your own frames of reference away from all the fashionable and formulaic material out there.



We would like to thank Martin for his time and watch for his new studio once we get the pics.

The Creative Tablet

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