Philip McKay: Contributor Interview

Tell us a little bit about yourself!  

I’m a self-taught, award-winning digital artist from Liverpool, United Kingdom. My art has been exhibited in many galleries across the world. 

I started to create surreal art when I came across the work of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte and graphic designer Storm Thorgerson, who was best known for designing album covers for Pink Floyd. 

I would describe the art I create as idiotic with scenes of unreality and of places that come only from my own imagination.

I have also created art for book covers for famous authors.

Are you formally trained or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshops, online forums, classroom, mentors, etc)?  

I am self-taught and all my learning has come from reading books about creating digital art. The internet has helped me a lot. Youtube is a good place to learn Photoshop. 


What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?  

Listening to music really influences the way I think, and listening to the lyrics of songs builds up a scene in my head.

Some of my work on my website is about me and events that have occurred at some stage in my life: fighting depression, fear and anxiety. It is like keeping a diary, but instead of writing about my life I create it visually in art.

Your work could be described as “conceptual” and “minimal”. What do you find most interesting about creating images in those genres?  

The idea to create minimal art comes from the time when photography was my main interest.  The style of photography I did was minimal. Low light long exposures taken at beaches and coasts. I just love the atmospheric mood, the emptiness and tranquility of a deserted beach with dark clouds as the night sets it. I wanted to create those scenes in my digital art. My artwork called “Staring at the sea” captures that mood and tranquility perfectly.

Many of your images have a post-apocalyptic and sci-fi feel. What advice would you give illustrators wanting to give their own imagery that feeling?  

When I am creating apocalyptic scenes I make sure it has a dark mood and atmospheric feel to it. I also don’t use much colour. I like to keep it minimal.

I use various brushes in Photoshop to create mist or fog, to get an eerie feel to the finished scene.

How important is Photoshop in creating your finished images?  

Without Photoshop I would have never created art. I can’t paint or draw, so Photoshop is the only way I can create art. 

Photography came first for me, before digital art. I used Photoshop a lot on my photography work, and then I got into digital art, exploring all the tools it had to offer in creating art.


Personal projects can be so beneficial to an artist’s growth and creativity. Do you have any you’re working on right now? 

I have only done one personal project, many years ago. It was called “The silent years” and was for a magazine.

It was about me fighting depression, anxiety and fear, but I regretted doing it, and I’ve only ever read it once, when the magazine was released.

I might do another one on my rise in the art world… From my struggle in the early years  to exhibiting my art in galleries across the world and winning many awards.

What do you think are the advantages of working in an agency, as opposed to freelancing, for an illustrator?  

My experience in my art career so far has been generally good with agencies. The benefit of working with them is that they can promote artists and open new doors into the art world. 
I have never done any freelancing so I can’t really comment on that side!

Click here to view Philip’s portfolio of work.