Pete Mckee – An Artist of Sheffield and England
Pete Mckee, this name is a bit far from familiar in China, even among the mainstream art field. But if you ask a local Sheffielder, especially one who has a zest for art, he probably would beam and start to tell you things about him with great passion, before sharing with you his experience when he bumped into him.
Anyway, if you ever walked past the Broad Lane, you can hardly miss the mural adorning the side of Fagan’s depicting an elderly couple embracing and kissing. This is ‘The Snog’, one of Pete’s largest artworks and one of the landmarks in Sheffield. Not just locals, everyone who has lived in or visited Sheffield recognizes it, even if not knowing who the painter is.
So this is Pete Mckee. He’s an artist; he’s got a studio, and a band, and owns a cool pub. What else would one expect in the whole life?
But Pete was not born to be famous and actually had a bitter childhood. His mum passed away when he was a kid, and he was raised up by his dad, a steelworker, a very common profession in Sheffield back then, who lived a typical working-class lifestyle.
While taking good care of Pete, he often hit pubs in the afternoons and evenings. As to Pete himself, he used to be a factory worker and a postman before he became an artist about 10 years ago. Back then, he was even rejected from art college (ironically). Close to the working-class, Pete has more understanding about them more than anyone else, which contributes to his later artwork to some extent.
Besides, Pete has great affection towards rock’n’roll music, which also provided him with the source of creation. Thanks to his creativity and talent, he has received commissions from Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys.
Speaking of the inspiration, Pete said: ‘When I did a painting of the Arctic Monkeys I was more interested in where they were before they were famous – that moment where they decide to be a band.
so I painted four kids playing football and one of them says, “Let’s form a band”. There’s always that starting point with anybody famous. They were just kids, they came up with a crazy idea and went through with it. I’m always interested in the journey. Everybody starts pretty much on that same level.’
Decide To Form A Band
Born in 1966, the year England won the World Cup, and the year Sheffield Wednesday lost the FA Cup, Pete, seemingly, connects himself to the football world by fate, and later even started his career as an illustrator for Sheffield Telegraph’s sports section, publishing every Thursday a cartoon about sports. From then on, he has created many cartoons based on the two Sheffield football teams – Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, in which the following ones are among the most famous, which were supposed to be influenced by the funny American TV show, Family Guy.
All those things, childhood memories, understanding towards life, passion about music and football, and most importantly, the nostalgia for good old days and his humor of self-deprecation, Pete melts them together and recreate out of it, adding the unique Sheffield traits, making himself one of the most characteristic artists in England. If you are familiar with Sheffield, you might either be excited or be emotional after seeing Henderson’s Relish, the South Vale Park where a lovely northern couple having picnic with Pulp’s album playing, a girl saying goodbye to her parents at the train station, Bramall Lane (where the world’s first football club started)… His detailed and empathetic depiction has won him followers not only from Sheffield but also from all over the world.
A Perfect Day
The Great Wave
Waiting For Woodward
Now Then (‘Na den’ is also a Sheffield slang)
I met Pete once at the Brother’s Arms, the pub owned by Pete himself. It was before the Tramlines Musical Festival, and he and the Everly Pregnant Brothers (Pete’s ukelele band) members were having a rehearsal. My friend and I stopped to speak to him, and he had a lovely chat with us, about his Tramline performance, his artwork, etc. Always with an amiable smile on the face, Pete didn’t seem to be a famous artist, more like a senior old friend who might say hi to you from across the street.
Everly Pregnant Brother’s Performance on Tramlines 2017
Provoking deep and vast emotion though, Pete’s artistic style is characterized by simplicity – neat and clear sketches outlining colorful and iconic characters, but the most distinguishable things can always be caught, and people never fail to tell what an illustration is about as soon as they see it.
One of his most famous paintings features an album of Oasis, but all the band members in the original photo are changed into penguins. People can still recognize it at the first sight because he catches the most special element in it. On the other hand, we always say that eyes are the windows of ones’ inner world.
In Pete’s drawing, almost all eyes are the same, omitted to slits, but this does not reduce any of the empathy or story that he wants to show the pictures, which highlights his ability of artistic expression.
Apart from cooperating with rock stars, Pete has also been highly recognised in the fashion and cinematic world, including being invited to design a limited edition pair of Clarks Desert Boots, and create a selection of images for the internationally renowned fashion designer Sir Paul Smith to be exhibited at his flagship Tokyo store, to commemorate 20 years anniversary of shop opening in Japan. Then he was invited to take part in a special project from Warp Films, celebrating its 10th birthday, and re-created 10 posters from their most loved films, including the renowned This is England which won the BAFTA awards, together with Dead Man’s Shoes and Submarine, all based in Yorkshire area.
This is England
Unfortunately, earlier this year, Pete announced on his Instagram that he had got liver transplantation because he had been diagnosed end-stage liver cancer. This has made his followers gutted, but he got back to creation quickly and posted a few illustrations on social network eulogizing life and hope. We hope this talented, humorous, and lovely soul can be fully recovered soon and bring us more brilliant works.
Reasons To Be Cheerful
Images come from Google image and shop.petemckee.com