Pete Mckee Artist -We Salute You
Feb 1 is the birthday of Sheffield artist and all round good guy Pete Mckee and to celebrate I would like to randomly salute him in this blog.
I met Pete Mckee back in the late 1980′s when we both worked in HMV Records in Sheffield.We worked together for about four years, on and off, alongside a great cast of characters including ,for a short time ,Sheffield songwriter Richard Hawley.
What all the staff shared was the same sense of humour which made the drugery of the 9 to 5pm shop work into a laugh a minute experience.Plus we had a solid love of music which made us the worlds number one Pop Quiz contestants.
Pete poured these elements into his work along with the same sense of place which permeates the work of The Arctic Monkeys,Pulps Jarvis Cocker and,to some extent,Richard Hawley.
That place is ,of course ,Sheffield and the North in general and Petes art mixes nostalgia with pop culture and rich,warm humour.
Pete Mckees Gallery Of Sheffield Legends
For a while Pete was making T-Shirts depicting old fashioned football scenes and selling them outside his beloved Sheffield Wednesday ground.He soon became a featured cartoonist in the Sheffield Star and Sheffield Telegraph shown mainly in the sports pages.
Years ago I remember the excitement of his big break when Marks And Spencers published a Pete Mckee birthday card but this proved to be a false dawn and Pete had to wait a few more years before his work started to become well known outside of a small group of admireers in Sheffield.
One of the catalysts for Petes big break was when Noel Gallagher became a kind of modern day patron for Pete.
It started when Pete sent him a print of one of his paintings which featured a boy learning to play guitar with a Sex pistols poster on the wall and a Beates record on the turntable .I think it was called Bad Education (I just tried to find the painting online but I was unsuccesful.) How could Noel Gallagher not love this picture!
Noel himself rang Pete and once Pete had worked out it was the real Noel Gallagher and not someone talking the piss he had a good chat with him about music and art.Shortly after Noel called him back and commissioned him to customise a ten foot Gibson Guitar which was to be part of a worldwide touring exhibition featuring famous custom guitars decorated by world famous artists (Paul Wellers guitar was decorated by Peter Blake who did the Sgt Peppers sleeve.)
Pete Mckee Oasis Poster
Since then Pete Mckees work has begun to get some of the recognition it deserves.
With his scenes (often tinged with both humour and sadness) depicting all facets of Northern Life from a trip to the seaside to a night out dressed to the nines,from fairgrounds to working mens clubs,pop groups and football Pete inhabits his own world which is both site specific (looking at his 22 views of Sheffield exhibition many of his remembrances are the same as mine and other Sheffielders of the same age) and universal (in the same way that Pulp and The Arctic Monkeys write about their town but in a way that many people from different geographical locations and social backgrounds can recognise something of their own experience in the writing.)
Throughout December 2009 Pete had a painting displayed in one of those huge,swanky glass car displays at Gilders Audi garage near the Dronfield By Pass (Low Edges.) I drove past it many times on the way to the mum in laws and the kids always shouted out about its presence which was given more poignancy given that it depicted a snow scene in a town which was covered in snow.
There was a warmth and love in this painting which is present in all Petes work.
Bright and cartoon like the Pete Mckee world depicted in his paintings always puts a smile on your face even if sometime tinged with nostalgia for a way of life thats passed.The loners in his paintings may look sad (or their circumstances often look sad) but they celebrate difference.
Not that I want to paint too gloomy a picture because often Petee paintings are laugh out loud funny.
They are always stylish and carry with them a street style cool with many of the characters coming from the various youth cultures which have attracted Pete over the years.The mod,the indie kid,the greaser on the waltzer at the fairground,the teddy boy well past his prime.No wonder his fans include The Arctic Monkeys,Paul Weller,Noel Gallagher and Richard Hawley (indeed there is a Pete painting which shows Richard and other Sheffield musicians sat in the snug at Fagins (?)
After several exhibitions and work for ACME Studios who asked him to re-interpret characters from Futurama,Family Guy and The Simpsons Pete was recently commissioned to design a Clarks desert boot (or rather two as he was asked to do one for the ladies and one for the gents.)This is a perfect synergy for Pete as I am sure Pete will have worn desert boots many times (probably bought from Harrington’s in the Castle Market,in Sheffield,where you had to brave a ladder up to a loft area in order to try clothes on and pass the intimidating glares of local skins and mods.) see http://www.clarks.co.uk/info/Pete-Mckee for details of the Mckee boot.
One thing I can say for sure is that Pete deserves all the success and accolades thrown at him.He remains a humorous,humble and warm guy who is great company-and he passes these characteristics onto the characters in his paintings.
Personally I am very proud of the fact that Pete found the space in one of his paintings about the Sheffield Music scene to mention my first band The Mirror Cracked.
Pete Mckee Sheffield Bands
So Pete Mckee-Many Happy Returns-I Salute You (and I wish I had kept some of your HMV doodles they must be worth a bob or two now.)
Visit http://www.therealmckee.co.uk/ for more info about Pete Mckee plus to see the great picture gallerys.
The Godlike Genius Of Pete Mckee!