Hailing from right down in Cornwall, but now firmly based in east London, artist Josh McKenna’s illustrations are a joy to behold. Beautiful colours with an art deco influence, his cheeky characters, wry situations and straight up great pieces of work have been commissioned by massive brands, painted across the fronts of LGBTG+ venues and even made into Instagram stickers.
Hey Josh, so how does a car design student from Falmouth become one of London’s hottest artists?
Hey le cool, one of London’s hottest artists is quite a statement! I’ll definitely take it as my title moving forward though. How did I get here? A lot of graft, a lot, lot of graft. I moved to London with the dream of becoming a successful illustrator, it took four years of emails, internships, interviews, attending exhibitions, organising meetings all to get my face and name out there as the new (not-so) kid on the block. Many years, and much rejection later I was designing work for top brands and getting to where I wanted to be.
Sometimes I look at your work and just presume it’s in Palm Springs. Is this somewhere you’d like to retire to?
Palm Springs is always on my mind when I’m working and I try to feed the colourful, summery, dream like vibe into my art. This isn’t always possible so I limit the colours to something Californian-like. To retire there would be a far-off dream, but yes, very, very much so.
Is your house totally art deco? Your work is pretty influenced by that era.
I like my place to be clean, cosy and minimal. The artwork I’ve carefully selected I think reflects this, meaning I have an oil painting and a Bauhaus poster dotted amongst plants. Art Deco in a way?!
Are the characters in your work based on people you’ve met in real life?
My characters are representations of everyday people, most I have met in my years as a party-boy and more recently through my work. I also have to include a few fictitious characters because sometime’s I want to create from scratch.
Interview: Josh Jones