Episode 497 – Dave McKean

Virtual Memories Show 497:
Dave McKean

“Everything I see as making up my sense of self is about individual humans having a passion to create something, reaching out to me through their work. I get to see the world through their eyes, full of intent, full of the history of them, the emotions of them, and I aspire to do the same in my work. That’s what I value, and that’s what I see utterly changed by this.”

What is art? Who (or what) is an artist? What is creativity, and can it be captured in a machine? Dave McKean‘s amazing new book, PROMPT: Conversations With Artificial Intelligence (Hourglass/ASFA), tries to tackle these questions, so Dave rejoins the show for a conversation about the challenges that Midjourney and other AI image-engines pose to the definitions of art and creativity, the nature of artistic intent, what it means for a machine to capture the look of drawing without an understanding of drawing, why it seems like second-rate creators are the ones trying to mechanize creativity, and what this all might mean for commercial art and illustration. We also talk about the nature of AI, how his Midjourney experience moved from Stalker to Solaris, why he introduced Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest known story into the AI prompt, and whether the use of computers in art is a slippery slope to “hand-free” art. We also get into his lockdown life, his other new book, RAPTOR (Dark Horse), the importance of edgelands and the lost language of different places, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read PROMPT and RAPTOR!

(And go listen to our 2017 conversation)

“For AI, comic storytelling is really difficult, when from panel to panel you need to show specific angles, the same characters doing specific things. So that part of what I do — narrative storytelling — seems to be in a safer place at the moment. But these people seem determined to crack every single problem, so I’m sure they’ll get there somehow.”

“I felt, ‘That’s my job done.’ Why would anybody bother commissioning me to illustrate a record cover, for example?”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Dave McKean is an award-winning illustrator, designer, photographer, filmmaker, writer and musician. His full bio is way too long to include, so visit his site for that.

Follow Dave on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Dave by himself, and transformation of it (Mecha-McKean!) by Midjourney. It’s on my instagram.

Podcast: Feeling Gravett’s Pull

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 5 – Feeling Gravett’s Pull

“Comics is a medium that isn’t going to go away. It may just now finally be coming into its own in the 21st century. In this internet era, there’s something very special about what comics do, no matter how much they get warped and changed by technology.”

More than 30 years after taking on the role of British comics’ Man at the Crossroads, Paul Gravett remains at the center of the global comics scene. We had an in-depth conversation about the growth of comics as an art form, the surprise of seeing local manga in Algeria, why he considers himself less of a comics historian or curator than a comics activist, how it feels to have been the first publisher of some of the finest cartoonists of our time, and why he should be called Paul “Mission To Explain” Gravett. Give it a listen!

“I’m probably slightly insane for wanting to go on looking and searching and questioning and provoking myself, trying to find stuff that doesn’t give me what I know already.”

Along the way, Paul and I also talk about his new book, Comics Art (Yale University Press), the new exhibition he’s curating for the British Library, Comics Unmasked: Art & Anarchy in the UK, the history of comics and his history within it, and the way virtually every lifelong comics reader’s home winds up resembling an episode of Hoarders. Paul Gravett is  one of comics’ finest ambassadors, and it was a pleasure to talk with him during my recent UK trip. (Oh, and here’s a link to that Richard McGuire comic we effuse about!)

Paul Gravett Talks Comics Art on The Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. Under the Escape Publishing imprint, he co-published Violent Cases in 1987, the first collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, three volumes of Eddie Campbell’s Alec between 1984 and 1986, and London’s Dark in 1988 by James Robinson and Paul Johnson. Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival. His very extensive bio can be found at his website.

Credits: This episode’s music is The Boy With the Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers by Karl Hyde. The conversation was recorded at the Hilton London Euston on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Paul Gravett by me.

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