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.