McKay Felt has one of the mightiest pen games in the ink world at the moment. Having crafted artwork for names like Knxwledge, Little Simz, Mick Jenkins, Blu, Flying Lotus, Kehlani, and so many more, his portfolio is doing nothing but expanding every day. From freelance work to passion projects (including a zine and/or book later this year), every new piece is refreshing and unique to his own hand. The talented artist has spent the last few years in London, but is currently back in his home state of Utah, where he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I asked him about his views on the industry, what he has planned for the remainder of the year, and what animal he would become if he had to choose.
How has 2017 been treating you so far?
2017 has been simultaneously the tightest and shittiest year [laughs]. I was sick for pretty much all of January but in February I had quite a few projects I worked on finally get released. I also went back out to London for Little Simz' Roundhouse event to display my artwork I did for her latest album and comic. That was unforgettable. So yeah, new opportunities and ideas have redeemed the rough start of the year.
For those unfamiliar, how would you describe yourself in a couple sentences? Icebreaker shit.
Myself? I dunno. I'm just a guy who enjoys art, music, movies and creating. I spend too much time drawing which has luckily got me where it has. I genuinely love meeting people who are different than me and learning things that make me uncomfortable and question my human experience.
What's the rest of the year looking like for you?
There should be a few albums and extra stuff for musicians to come out that I've done work for, a poster that's going to be in season 2 of Colony, clothing stuff with some good people you'll've heard of and probably other things I've forgotten.
Aside from freelance, I'm going to launch some of my own work. I've made shirts and working on a zine/potentially an art book that I can hopefully release in the next few months. It's all in aims to fund this comic I've written and am currently drawing out. I really want to publish and distribute it myself. Other than that, I'm excited to see what else will pop up.
From album covers to personal work, all of your art seems to exist in its own dimension. How do you approach a blank canvas? Is it premeditated or do you follow the pen?
Blank paper gets me giddy. It's honestly different for every piece. Sometimes I have a premeditated image that I can execute and other times I'll sit down to draw a preconceived idea and something else entirely different comes out. I think it's important to not put constraints on yourself, especially in the early process of creating. If I have no plan in mind, then I just let my pen do what it wants.
What were your art habits like as a child?
I've drawn longer than my memory can serve. You could bet on me always having a paper and pencil. I drew on my assignments, during every class, literally any time I was sitting down and had that cuss in front of me. I've known nothing else [laughs].
I recently watched a movie called The Lobster, where humans have to turn into an animal of their choice if they don't find a mate in 30 days. If you had to choose, what animal would you become?
I loved that movie. I would probably pick something gnar like a falcon.
Within the comic/art industry, what have you learned over the years?
I've learned that you have to REALLY love what you do and go all in if you want to make it in the industry. I have no plan B so I work long hours and some projects don't pay off as well as others. I believe you have to be able to get a personal reward out of your work as well. With that being said, if you can link up with the right people for you or really have your own thing poppin' then it's worth all the stress...maybe...
Outside of art/illustrations, do you have other hobbies/interests?
I honestly can have a good time doing pretty much anything but I feel like a lot of my personal interests have some correlation with the arts. I love reading and making music. I used to BMX and skate a little but I wrecked the wrist of my drawing hand a few years ago which freaked me out so I rarely do now. I guess I've become a geezer that just floats around thinking about shit. I've been aching to play some basketball for the past couple weeks though...
What are some studio essentials?
I've got all my stuff that gets me excited in the studio. My guitars, skateboard, books, comics, video games, an old heavy duty katana that my grandpa got from a Japanese friend he made at the end of WWII and then plenty of art supplies. Inks, paints, screen tone sheets, all that good good~you know.
What have you been listening/watching/reading as of late?
Thundercat's latest album, Drunk has been in heavy rotation lately. Also been listening to The Sun's Tirade, Savage Mode, Rap Album Two, Kenny Segal, Jenny Hval, Chopin's Nocturnes played by Brigette Engerer + a slew of other stuff.
In terms of books: I've been in a deep trench of reading Murakami for the past three years. Trying to cycle through all of his novels when I have spare time. So far I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has been a stand-out. Also been listening to some philosophy stuff. I'm nearly finished with Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts. If you have anything to recommend, I'm all ears.
Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
My advice is to keep at it. If you love it and want to be good at what you do, then do it! Nothing can replace practice and dedication. Let yourself experience new things. I don't think you can create anything interesting if you have no well to draw from. Also strive to create something in a unique way to you. There's no point in being a carbon copy of someone else.
Any final words/thoughts/shout-outs?
Nothing else to add, really. Shouts to my parents/fam and Emi (my partner+wife) for being so supportive. Also eternal shouts to Flying Lotus & Brainfeeder gang for essentially launching my career.