Koikoikoi interviews Guy Mc Kinley

We already featured Guy months ago but these days we’ve been pleased of having an interview with him about his works and his most recent solo show “Tiny diamonds”.


1-    Introduce yourself in the way you like most. Feel free.
Well I am a artist/illustrator who specialises in character based work I guess.

2-    What can you tell us about your studies?
When you say studies I presume you mean what/where I studied? I didnt study too much, that why I am an artist. Haha! Seriously though it was probably my artworks fault I didnt do as well as I might have at school. Instead of concentrating in class or revising for exams I drew… a lot, but I guess that paid off in a different way. Later on when I was a little older I decided to do a degree, to see if I missed out on anything, its was fun and I learnt a few things, but I think more than anything it gave the opportunity to learn how to use a computer and time to focus on what I wanted to do with my art.

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3-    Your last exhibition is called ‘Tiny diamonds’. Where is this name coming from? Where did you take the inspiration for this collection?
The last show was in Istanbul and you are right it was called Tiny Diamonds. The name was just a simple way to describe the theme of the show, but there is a story behind it too.

I like to work with a concept no matter how loose it may be and this was a way to use a few geometric shapes in my work. I tend to be quite fluid in the decorative elements of my work and I wanted a harder edge, some sharp flat surfaces, so I came up with a little story for the Robo-Girls I paint. They themselves have a back story which is that they are the future guardians of the planet. They are split into three, the Bird Keepers, the Octopus Tamers and the Rabbit Riders. These are then split into the Earth, ( Rabbit Riders) the Sea (The Octopus Tamers) and the Air ( The Bird Keepers).

The story for this show was that I had this idea that the earth was powered by the precious stones that are beneath the earth, Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires,  Diamonds, etc. And that there was a mysterious thief that was stealing the gemstones. As the Robo Girls are the Earths guardians they are trying to get them back before everything is destroyed.

Most of the images were after the stones had been captured. The story isn’t really that important to anyone but me really, I usually keep it too myself, but what it does do is give me direction. When you paint certain characters a lot, its nice to put them in a situation so a series of paintings can be made within that story/theme.

4-    In general, what inspires you? One of your inspiration sources seems to be Japanese culture, what do you like most of it?
I have always been a fan of comics, I grew up on mainly UK comics until I was around 15/16 years old and then I started to get into American and Japanese Manga. The American stuff has its own qualities, but the Japanese stuff was a crazy, panel after panel of odd angles and facial expressions. Its almost like the comic stuff is trying to become the antithesis of what traditional Japanese art is, its all hectic and busy as opposed to the traditional work which is quiet and refined. They are so different.

The great thing is that they live alongside each other really well. Its just like the place itself. It has the most ancient buildings and traditions sat right next to the newest and the most technologically advanced modern culture.

My younger self loved the crazy Manga stuff, but my older self looks more and more at old wood block prints and the ink drawings, they are minimal,  yet they are so beautiful. I was lucky enough to visit Japan when I was at a bit of a crossroads with my art and it literally blew me away. I came back with sketchbooks full of ideas and new things to explore. Its from this point I started creating the newer characters you see me using.

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5-    You were usually painting with acrylic colors. What’s the reason of your use of watercolors for the “Tiny diamonds” series?
I love water colours, but it has taken me a little while to get to a stage I am happy showing them. I was working with a brush and Indian Ink for a while and I tried working with water colours a while back. I was never happy with my early attempts so I left it for a while and then I started experimenting again and it became a little clearer how I should use them.  I am not trying to use them in the washes kind of method, like in water colour landscapes. I want to use them more like coloured inks. The problem with acrylics sometimes is getting the small details I love to produce. Water colours are just a perfect for them. Plus with the Diamond elements, I thought they would be ideal for the glassy effect I wanted on those.
6-    Birds are a recurrent element in your artworks. What do they rapresent to you?
Outside of the Bird Keeper character I like painting birds anyway, there are not many creatures that you can embellish with lots and lots of decoration and they still look good. I guess fish could probably take heavy decoration. Anyway, they are beautiful creatures as well. As many times I paint them I never get tired them.

7-    Where do robot girls with floating head come from?
When I said before that I filled a few sketch books when I was in Japan, one of the sketches was of the traditional toy the Kokeshi Doll, this was in 2003. I drew them quite a lot and I had already got these little robots I drew for a project whilst I studied. I mixed the two and out of it came the beginnings of the Robo-girls. I was also keen to use them when I first started painting which was around the time I got back from my trip. I had always drew in pen and ink before, then computer coloured my work, but I was asked to paint at a few live events so I decided they would be a good thing to start painting, mainly as they are made up of simple shapes. Circular head and an almost triangular body, they have become more and more intricate as I have painted them more, but thats how they began.

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8-    What’s your relation with digital art instead?
I like digital art, I tend to produce my more commercial illustration jobs in a digital format and its nice to do something so clean and tight. With computers you can refine everything and remove all trace of the drawing process, which can be dangerous, but as with all things you can get better at it. They are a great tool to experiment with ideas. I begun to use more hand drawn parts to make sure there was a human element to the work I produce on a computer. In my last set of prints of the Dead Japanese Ghost Girl Warriors, I used a lot of ink washes scanned into my mac and played about with in Photoshop.

They are great tools, like I said, but its all about who is behind the computer. A bad design, illustration or drawing can be made to look a lot better, sometimes, which can be bad. I would much rather perfect my drawing and painting skills than my photoshop/illustrator skills.  The creative process for me is all about drawing.  I sometimes feel I have to break from the desk and just draw or paint. Digital stuff uses your body less, I love painting larger scale works as you can really move while you paint.
9-    Who are your heroes? In art and in any other field you want to mention
There are so many artists I respect and love the work of, but the person who probably shaped the way I draw most was Jamie Hewlett. His early work was a great influence. He seemed to disappear for a while and then came back with a bang, I am glad he came back  his stuff is great. At the moment I really adore the work of  Jon Klassen, Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, Chris Ware. I also love a lot of my friends work, Nick Sheehy (AKA Showchicken), Lennard Schuurmans and Elph’s work are great too.

My biggest inspiration at the minute is the animated film Tekkon Kinkreet and the guys behind the scenes. I simply cant get enough of their style. If I am ever struggling to be inspired I put it on and I am so motivated by how good it is, I feel the urge to create. Of course I am also completely intimidated by how good it is, which is another thing I love. I love to see other great work it never fails to makes me want to draw.
10-    What are your goals for future? Is there something you were dreaming you already achieved?
There are lots of small things I always hoped to achieve, some of which I have managed to do like get a few solo shows in some galleries, make my own toy and make a living out of my art. But the big dream is animation. Simply put I would love to do an animated film. I have ideas all the time, script ideas, huge ensemble character pieces that I think would make a great animated movie, the dream is always to see the characters you draw come to life and move. I would be the happiest guy on earth if I got to make a movie with my characters someday. I love animation.

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11-    ‘Tiny diamonds’ took place at Milk Gallery, a young art gallery based in Instanbul. What do you feel about that city and its people?
I have nothing but good things to say about Istanbul and its people, the guys at Milk Gallery, Elif and Can made us so welcome as did their friends. Their gallery space is fairly new and they seem to be the only gallery we could find there, that are actively trying to cover the street art/lo brow art/designer vinyl/grafitti scene.

Its a lovely space and the opening night was a blast. We had a lot of fun, it was an amazing week we spent there. If you haven’t been its a tiny bit like my definition of Japan, in the sense there is a lot of historical/traditional stuff right next to ultra modern stuff. It has some great galleries,  beautiful monuments and buildings which are all quiet and respectful and the you can go on the street where there are thousands of people all rushing about chatting and shouting. The cafe/bar culture is great there too, people are always out on the streets, its a very vibrant city with a huge mix of people.
12-   How would you define your style?
I have no idea. I can see the influences, which you could define my style by, but I like to think I add a little something that makes it unique. That said its probably just straight up character based illustration, I strive to make it beautiful, to my eyes at least. No matter what it is it has to have something good looking about it. I have no problem defining my work as style over content.

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13-  What do you like and what don’t you like about your job?
Commercially, the only problem I ever face is working for people who don’t know what they actually want.  They know what they don’t want,  but its usually only after you have spent a long time preparing something. You need someone with a decisive nature to direct you on a commercial project. Its not even that bad, it just makes a simple process a bit more complicated.

In my personal work, I cant think of any problems. Maybe self motivation sometimes. But its so nice to produce work that you like yourself and then have other people like it and enough to buy it, hang it in their homes and look at it forever. Its a pleasure. Plus the other parts of it, travelling, meeting new people and I find the art community one of the most welcoming. People may disagree, but in my experience I generally meet like minded people who are great fun and open their homes and their friends to you without question.
14 –   Is there any tips or advices you want to share with our readers and wannabe artists?
I think in my opinion I would encourage anyone to keep on perfecting your skills, draw/paint any chance you get. My ideas come from drawing mainly. I would say trying to achieve a style that is recognisably yours is important, but that tends to come with practice and hard work.

I think to be a successful modern artist you need to be multi disciplined and being able to use all manner of tools to make your work is always beneficial to making a living as an artist now. So expand your horizons, never be closed minded to anything or any opportunity. When I was studying for my degree and I had time on my hands and no mortgage, I made a little pact with myself to say yes to any offer I got, whether it was free or paid badly or anything. I thought while I was still a student I could afford to do these things and I made so many contacts and got so many real briefs that when I came out of Uni. I had a good grounding in how the commercial side of the industry worked and a lot of those people who I did work for then get me lots of more interesting and well paid jobs now.

Also I think you can make it someway on your artistic skill alone, but I think the resources and contacts the internet provides is remarkable and if you dont know your way round a computer, you may struggle a little more than the next guy who can do everything on a computer.

Lastly if you are still studying in College or University, my advice would be take advantage of all the resources you have access to, like digital film cameras and editing suites, or screen printing studios, or the computer programmes and the people with the knowledge to push you in the right direction with any of these things. When you leave, no one really has the money to go and buy ALL of the things you can use in Uni, for free. Make the most of it.

guy07Guy on the web:

www.guymckinley.com
www.flickr.com/photos/guymckinley
http://guymckinley.bigcartel.com/

Milk Gallery

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