Born December 29th 1963 in Taplow, Berkshire, England, David McKean began his illustrious career by studying at Berkshire College of Art and Design (1982-1986). Before graduating he began work as an illustrator. Hoping to find work as a comic book artist McKean traveled to New York in 1986 to present a portfolio of his work to comic giants D.C. Comics, Marvel and others but met with no success.
Shortly after the unsuccessful trip to New York McKean met Neil Gaiman and began a collaborative relationship that has spanned many years, continuing to this day. Their first collaborative effort was the graphic novel Violent Cases (1987) which has not only been printed worldwide but also adapted into a stage production. Other collaborations by McKean and Gaiman are a mini-series Black Orchid (1988) and covers for DC Comic’s horror comic book series Hellblazer, The Face magazine’s Signal to Noise (1990) and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994). In 1989 McKean began designing and illustrating the covers for Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, completing them in 1997. He also illustrated many of the Sandman spin-offs. 1998 saw the covers compiled into one volume and released as Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers.
The highly successful Batman graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989) featured McKean’s illustrations, taking 120 paintings to complete, and his work was likened to that of American award-winning artist and writer Bill Sienkiewicz’s. During the years 1990 to 1996 McKean worked on writing and illustrating his own 500 page comic novel Cages which went on to win a number of awards including an Ignatz Award, Italy’s La Pantera Award, an Alph-Art Award, and Harvey Award for Best New Comic and Best Graphic Novel. McKean has written and illustrated a number of other books alone, including children’s picture books such as The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, as well as his collaborative efforts with Neil Gaiman.
In 1995, in collaboration with The Rolling Stones, McKean wrote and illustrated Voodoo Lounge. The Rolling Stones album of the same name was released around the same time as the book published. He also worked with Rachel Pollack to write and illustrate The Vertigo Tarot. McKean used computer-composited imagery inspired by D.C. Comic’s Vertigo series. 1995 was a particularly successful year for McKean as Sony commissioned him to produce the image that was used to launch the hugely popular Playstation. This is just one of the campaigns he has worked on, with others being for Nike, Smirnoff, BMW/Mini, British Telecom and more.
McKean’s illustrations have been featured in Playboy and The New Yorker as well as a number of other magazines. For the second and third of the Harry Potter movies, McKean provided concept illustrations. He has also created CD covers for music albums for artists such as Alice Cooper, Tory Amos and Counting Crows as well as a number of lesser known bands. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series book Wizard and Glass sports a cover designed by David McKean.
McKean has many strings to his bow aside from being a world-renowned illustrator. His talent as a photographer has led to the production of four photo books. McKean’s A Small Book of Black and White Lies was published in 1995 and is described as being “a collage of haunting photographs”. His next photo book was Option: Click published in 1998 was followed by The Particle Tarot: The Major Arcana (a collection of color images representing various characters) and The Particle Tarot: The Minor Arcana.
McKean has also made short films and feature films, as well as directed several television intros and music videos. He is also a very capable musician, with jazz piano being his choice. Together with saxophonist Iain Bellamy, McKean has founded his own record label Feral Records.
McKean has won a great many awards through the years, and been nominated for a great many more. He continues to work on books featuring his photography and illustrations, and working on various projects that include covers for more of Neil Gaiman’s books. McKean resides on the Isle of Oxney in Kent, England. He is married to his studio manager Clare, and together they have two children.