Dave McKean was born in Taplow, Berkshire in 1963. He attended Berkshire College of Art and Design from 1982 to 1986 and, before leaving, started working as an illustrator.
In 1986 he met author Neil Gaiman with whom he has collaborated on many projects since. Their first book, Violent Cases (1987), has been printed in many editions worldwide, and adapted for the stage. Since then they have produced Black Orchid (1988), Signal To Noise (1990) for The Face magazine and Mr. Punch (1975). Dave has contributed all the cover illustrations and design for the popular Sandman series of graphic novels, and a collection of this work, Dust Covers, was published in 1998.
Arkham Asylum (1989) written by Scottish author/playwrite Grant Morrison, still the single most successful graphic novel ever published, was also illustrated by Dave. 1995 saw collaborations with the Rolling Stones (The Voodoo Lounge), and Rachel Pollack (The Vertigo Tarot).
Between 1990 and 1996, Dave also wrote and illustrated the 500 page comic novel Cages, which won the Harvey Award for Best New Comic and Best Graphic Novel, the Ignatz Award, the International Alph Art award and Italy's La Pantera Award.
His collection of short stories in comic form, Pictures That Tick released in 2000, won the Victoria and Albert Museum Illustrated Book of the Year Award, and several of McKean's books are in the V&A collection.
In 1995 he produced the image to launch The Sony Playstation, and in 1996 was one of four photographers chosen by Kodak and Saatchi's to launch their new colour film with a book, video and global ad package. He has also produced campaigns for Smirnoff, British Telecom, 3dfx Voodoo, BMW/Mini, Nike, the British Government's Social Work Department, and Eurostar.
He has contributed many illustrations to The New Yorker, Playboy and other magazines, and promotional work for the films Blade, Alien Resurrection, The King is Alive, Dust and Sleepy Hollow. He has also created concept illustrations for the 2nd and 3rd Harry Potter films, and designs for Lars von Trier's interactive project in Copenhagen, House of Zoon.
He has won various awards including the international Amid Award for the best album cover of the year (one of over 150 covers designed, illustrated and photographed since 1990, including recent releases by Michael Nyman, Tori Amos, Real World, Altan, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Bill Laswell, Alice Cooper, Dream Theater, Counting Crows, Front Line Assembly, and Bill Bruford), and the World Fantasy Award for the Sandman covers.
In 1996 he composed and performed the music for the BBC Radio adaptation of Signal to Noise with saxophonist Iain Ballamy, with whom he has recently initiated the Feral Records label. Dave's Hourglass studio and Allen Speigel Fine Arts in California have also co-published three collections of photographs; A Small Book of
B/W Lies, Option: Click and The Particle Tarot which includes an introduction by legendary director and Tarot master Alejandro Jodorowsky.
He has exhibited in America, Europe and Japan including recent ‘narrative exhibitions’ The Coast Road and The Rut. He has put together two touring exhibitions with Graphicus Touring; the retrospective show Narcolepsy, which continues to show throughout the UK and Europe, and a collection of photography.
In the last few years Dave has created several award winning children's books. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Crazy Hair, Coraline, The Graveyard Bok (Carnegie/Hugo/Newberry Medal winner) and The Wolves in the Walls (NY Times Illustrated Book of the Year) all written by Neil Gaiman, Varjak Paw (Smarties Gold Award) and The Oulaw Varjak Paw (Blue Peter overall winner) written by SF Said and Slog’s Dad and The Savage (Liverpool reads book 2009) by David Almond.
His adult illustrated books include with Wizard & Glass (Stephen King), the autobiography of John Cale: What's Welsh for Zen, the groundbreaking Fat Duck Cookbook with 3-Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal and the international bestseller The Magic of Reality with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins
In 1998, Dave decided to make some films. The Week Before and N[eon] are short films that played the festival circuits worldwide and N[eon] won First Prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. These films brought Dave to the attention of Lisa Henson from the Jim Henson Company, and together with Neil Gaiman and Dave's small crew from the shorts, they embarked on MirrorMask, a feature fantasy film for Columbia/Tristar. Premiered at the Sundance Festival in Utah, and officially selected for the Locarno, Sitges, London, Edinburgh, Sarasota, Hawaii and Dublin film festivals, it won 9 awards (including the Inaugural Black Tulip at the Amsterdam Festival) and was finally released in cinemas in 2005. Three books were released to tie in with the film including The Alchemy of MirrorMask, a lavish art book which includes all the paintings, designs and photographs made for the film.
Keanoshow, a collection of all Dave's short film projects includes recently finished films Dawn, Displacements and Whack!.
Also in 2006 he created extensive designs, films and photographs for the Elton John Broadway musical Lestat for Warner Brothers. The National Theatre of Scotland/Improbable musical theatrical production of Wolves in the Walls opened in Glasgow and London, before transferring to New York.
The second feature film directed by Dave was initiated very quickly after a trip to Oberammergau with the actor Michael Sheen who was planning a contemporary Passion play in Port Talbot, his home town. Dave offered to shoot the three day live event as a film, and secured funding from The Welsh Film Agency to make the film. The theatrical event created by Wildworks and Theatre Wales garnered 5-star reviews and theatrical awards. The film, The Gospel of Us, was distributed by Soda Pictures.
In 2012 and 2013 Dave completed several new books; Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (David Almond), The Ocean at the End of Lane and Smoke & Mirrors (Neil Gaiman), Phoenix (SF Said) and Historical Heston (Heston Blumenthal). He is also finishing a book of paintings (Nitrate), a new collection of short comics (Pictures that Tick 2) and a new graphic novel (Caligaro).
2014 includes several large projects with the completion of Luna, a live performance piece called 9 Lives at the Sydney Opera House, a new theatrical film with Wildworks, and a large scale exhibition on the anarchistic history of British comics designed for The British Library.
He lives on the Isle of Oxney in Kent, England with his wife and studio manager Clare, and their two children.