Legendary artist Dave McKean spoke with CBR TV during last summer’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, and the Eisner winner spoke about the source of his creative energy, the origins of his graphically sexual OGN “Celluloid” and what it’s been like to return to the world of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman for the first time in years.
On where his creative drive comes from: I’ve just got itchy feet, I think. I like to move around, I like the differences. One thing tends to feed the other, so if I do a lot of drawing on the book or a graphic novel or something for a while, it’s great to play some music or write something or work with photography or work with actors for a while and the differences really seem to strengthen each other. They compliment each other, but they bolster each other. You learn a lot of interesting new stuff doing one thing, and I can take that and apply it to something else.
On the creative activity that gives him a greater peace in his life: It’s probably just drawing. Whenever I start a new thing — and I’ve talked to a few different creators about how it seems to be a common issue — when I started, I’d forgotten how to draw. I spend a day or two or three doing rubbish, then I throw it all away and go back over to my house and to my wife and say, “I’ve forgotten how to draw, I’m going to have to go out and get a proper job.” Then she talks me down from the roof and at some point I get back into it. It does seem to be a state of mind. Panic is no good, being overly aware of what I’m doing — all of those sorts of things. Trying to pay attention to what state of mind I’m in, when things start to flow and it’s a natural thing, give it two or three days and I get back into the rhythm of it. That’s my favorite thing to do. On a beautiful day like this, I sit in the garden, draw. And that’s lovely.
On revisiting “Sandman” with his variant for “Sandman: Overture”: It was nice to come back to it because it felt like it had some sort of purpose. To be honest, I was skeptical to start with because Neil said he was never going to write anymore, and all of a sudden, he is. But he seemed to have a genuine — he planted a seed in the original series that wasn’t ever taken up. So he obviously did have a purpose to write it. It seemed interesting to get back to do it. I think J.H. Williams is a lovely choice. But the expectations are obviously rather high, so that’s completely different. When we did it the first time, there were no expectations at all and we were young and arrogant and we just told DC what we were going to do and we did it. Suddenly, the whole series was finished and you look back and it did make a few waves, and find a nice group of fans outside of comics.
Now, there’s this huge following — Entertainment Weekly has released the news and it’s embargoed — it’s absurd to a degree. All of that is kind of crazy, and I did get stage fright doing the first cover, because it’s like having thousands of people looking over your shoulder. 8 million of Neil’s Twitter followers looking over my shoulder.
On where his adult graphic novel “Celluloid” came from: Well, sex is okay. I like sex. Why are there so many books about violence? Why are there so many books and stories about violence? How much violence do you come upon in your daily life? How much sex have you had? It seems out of balance. I think sex is a lovely thing, something to be celebrated and explored in every form — in film, in comics, in all sorts. I touched on it in a book I did called “Cages.” I had a sex scene, and I was going to do an absolutely blunt, these two people are in love and they’re going to have sex. But I kind of shied away from it because then a great big 500 page graphic novel would be an X certificate book because of three pages. That seemed ridiculous. I always fancied doing a book that was just about sex and exploring the feelings and thoughts going on in your mind when you’re curious about sex. … I really loved doing it, but there were a couple things I didn’t get to, focusing on those little moments. Not necessarily big pornographic scenes, but attraction, a little bit of voyeurism, human play. I think that’s curious. I’d like to do something about that.