Psychedelic Realism With Artist Pat McKinney
"I lacked confidence in brush painting for a long time, but a few years ago I revisited it and immersed myself."
Pat McKinney's art has been described as vibrant, soulful, whimsical, and upbeat. Every portrait, mural, and painting he produces is full of color and energy that conveys emotion and personality in each brushstroke. While he is known for his awesome portraits of musical legends, he also creates designs for poster art, storybook illustration, and a plethora of custom-commissioned artworks. We caught up with Pat shortly following his art show at The Medusa Collective to talk art, music, and his affinity for Seinfeld reruns.
Do you go by Pat or Patrick?
Usually Pat, but I’m cool with either.
Are you aware there is a Stranger Things character named after you?
Haha, yes! I wish he had been a more likable character…giving Pat McKinneys a bad rep!
If you could only listen to one album forever, which would it be?
That’s a tough one and my answer would probably depend on my mood…. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” with The Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead” coming in close at second. I have to mention “Home” by Billy Strings as well - it’s a masterpiece.
Strangest thing in your fridge right now?
“Fermented Organic Coconut Milk Probiotics”.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“Always be on time (aka early)” and “always do what you say you are going to do” - My Dad
Oh, and “don’t get the chicken pho”...I’m team veggie.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an artist?
I grew up in Chicago with a very artistic/musical family. My parents always encouraged my passions (except I’m sure they really regretted buying me a drum set when I was 9…). My grandpa worked as an illustrator/ painter in Chicago so it wasn’t hard to find inspiration early. I was always the guy doodling or drawing on my arm in class. I moved out to Colorado in 2012 to attend RMCAD (Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design) and graduated with a BFA in Illustration. Illustration work isn’t exactly easy to find, so I started exploring other mediums/styles. I fell in love with spray painting the second I picked up a can. It steamrolled from there and murals quickly became my main passion and source of work for several years. I will always love painting walls and still do murals from time to time, but I think painting canvases is my true love. I lacked confidence in brush painting for a long time, but a few years ago I revisited it and immersed myself. It was a very welcome change of pace and I quickly settled in and found my groove! Now I can’t get enough of it. It’s been a long journey, but I am very fortunate to be doing what I love for a living.
How would you describe your style of art to someone who has never seen it?
I like to describe it as psychedelic realism. In other words, it’s me using every color imaginable and hoping people like it.
What is your preferred artistic weapon of choice?
Paintbrush! If you would have asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said a spray can and a couple years before that, pen or marker.
Studio or Streets?
These days I’m embracing that hermit life… Studio!
What is the best part of the Denver art scene, in your opinion?
The community. For the most part people are supportive, kind, and considerate. It’s an awesome place to be and I’m grateful for all of the great friends and connections that I’ve made here. So much talent as well!
You were a part of a collaborative called the So-Gnar Creative Division. How did that come about?
I stepped away from So-Gnar a few years ago. I appreciate the time I spent as part of it and I learned a lot, but I am happy to be riding solo now.
What are some artists that you admire or look to for inspiration?
I grew up loving Ralph Steadman’s work (Hunter S. Thompson/ “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”)...illustrative, dark and explosive. I would say my style and interests have changed over the years though. I really just love seeing painters with different approaches to realism. Brushwork, texture, color can all play into it. Alpay Efe is one of the best out there right now. That guy is ridiculously talented.
What has been your proudest artistic accomplishment so far?
I would have to say just making the leap to a full time artist. Years ago I was working two jobs, designing and painting murals with So-Gnar, and trying to squeeze in my own projects. Transitioning into a position where I could just focus on establishing my own business was terrifying, and certainly not easy, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What other type of shenanigans do you get into when you’re not painting?
Lots of live music with friends and family. Adventures with my wife and dog. Biking around town checking out breweries. Traveling. Working out. Outdoor stuff. Designing. I might also be watching a little too much Seinfeld lately….
What projects do you have coming up next that we can look forward to?
I have a Lady Gaga commission coming up - not sure whether my wife, the person commissioning me, or I am more excited about it. And like I said before, I’ve been watching way too much Seinfeld lately. So, there might be a series coming…
I’m most active on Instagram: @pat.mckinney