Steve McGhee Interview

Steve McGhee: Woodstock, Ontario (… soon to be Cambridge Ontario.) Born and raised in London, Ontario. Went to HB Beal Secondary (The best high school art program in Ontario- by far. The program supported Sculpture, Painting, Photography, Animation, etc… and the instructors were all professional artists. It was a good time and a great program.) After Beal, I was on to Sheridan College for Animation. I loved character design, location design, background design… all of it. But I couldn’t stand the actual animating. And I had a hard time getting around the fact that as a classical animator, I would be drawing only a few seconds in a film, and I’d be drawing exactly like everyone else.

So, it was on to George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario for Graphic Design and Advertising. Met some awesome people there and the program was great. In first year, I’d sneak into the third year bay, hide behind the monitor and take the Photoshop lessons that the third year kids were getting- an advantage to say the least- especially when my instructors couldn’t explain how my Photoshop skills were advancing faster than others in the class. Drove them nuts!

Random Act (tired of it all)

After college, I worked in various agencies, had fun, but really loved my own thing with Monster Media, my very own design firm. I’ve done a lot of “extreme sports” type branding and advertising- everything from festivals to new product launches. And now, is the place where I hang my hat. Stop by anytime.

Edge of the world

Where do you look for sources of inspiration?

I’m always looking for inspiration… always. Not just visual. A good song can sometimes spark creative inspiration for me. For example: “Cocktails With God” came right after the birth of my daughter and “I Came Apart” was a reflection of very personal loss in my life. Also, the wealth of info and inspiration online is HUGE… just type “photoshop masters” into a google search and voilà. Blogs like yours and others are also key in spreading the word – something I didn’t have access to when I was studying. But really… my stuff comes from everyday type situations. I try to think of things that scare the hell out of me and then I translate it to the screen and eventually to print.

What is your favourite aspect of __? (Graphic design, logo design, web design, blogging)

Design in general… I love it. The fact that one can translate dreams to visual reality is incredible. All you need is time… and a little creative & artistic ability. It’s all about styles. It’s cool that you can draw an apple- but can you draw that apple in a way nobody has ever seen before? Designers can.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and City on a Rainy Day

What are your top 5 favourite websites?

1.Top fav. site and fav. designer all time… the imitated but never duplicated, gmunk.
3. – HUGE resource of creative web talent.
4. I’m a member of NAPP
5. – the best… nuff said

Who do you look up to in your field?

There’s too many to name. Basically everyone has something to offer… something they do better than me – and I think that’s great. But, if I must choose it’s Bradly Grosh, a.k.a. gmunk. Through college, this guy set my world on fire. His stuff set a standard for me, and for most designers at the time… even if they didn’t know who he was.

Us vs Them

Can you take us through your creative process from start to finish?

Here goes… I think of something bad. (fun huh?) For example… A plane crashes into a shopping center. What would that look like if it were featured on the news? Take 9/11 for example. Everyone on the continent was glued to their TV sets for days… watch the horror unfold. The images still haunt some of us to this day. The actual reporting was minimal, as there was no more that the reporters could say… the images were screaming over them. But, it brought people together in primal sence. The moment it happened, we all were 10 years old again. We all just wanted to hug our Moms and Dads… That’s the effect I try to capture in my work. Whether I get it right is debatable… but that’s the idea.

Earth Falls Away..2

What sort of social media tools have you found most successful?

I really love They’ve been super nice to me and many, many great artists call it home. Their mag is stellar as well – it’s a big, glossy, digital art mag that anyone can be a part of. I have written a few tutorials for it and will be a featured artist in the not too distant future. I’m also a member of, and Of course, I’m on facebook. 🙂

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?

It would have to be “The Big Swallow”. I gave a tutorial on it in Photoshop Creative magazine (issue 43). After that, I entered it in the Photoshop User World Wide Photoshop Comp. and won. It took first in its category, General Photoshop. There were 11 categories in all. It’s now printed 20 x 30, framed, and hanging in my basement with a few others.

What programs do you use most?

I use Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Maya, Quark (when I have too), etc…


What music are you listening to right now?

Listening to Dropkick Murphys, Lars Frederikson, Black Keys, Keith Richards, Silver Sun Pickups, Wolf Parade, Wintersleep, Tim Armstrong … and Coldplay right now. But I like to put the headphones on and listen to God Is An Astronaut when I work on my personal stuff… it sets the mood.

What would be your perfect dream project?

I really would love to do something in the movie industry… I think my work lends itself quite well to that environment. Maybe the gaming industry… who knows. I’m always up for something new. But, I already had what some might consider a dream gig… I was an illustrator for a company that did children’s promo. So I basically just sat around all day in a studio full of creatives and illustrated crazy whacky kids stuff. Purple toucans balancing on beach balls, sipping an ice tea while turtles played beach volleyball… whatever, It was fun.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the design industry?

Be honest with yourself. Show passion not perfection. Show your sketches. More times than not, it’s the concept that sells… not the finished piece. Don’t think for one second you’re better than anyone else… you’re not. You may have a better skill set than someone else, but nobody knows everything. And people who are starting out would be better suited to listen than to talk. And one more thing… never proof your own work.


Looking into a crystal ball, what do you think will be the next design trend?

It’s all so open now… more and more, people are accepting good design into their lives and their personal spaces. No more do classical paintings rule the walls of a perspective art buyer. The future? Who knows? I’d prefer not to know. I want designers to make it up as they go along. It’s healthier to just experiment…. most of the time. What I can tell you is, there’s a certain company that has a “New Shadow Shaping technology which creates images on the Moon that can be seen from Earth. Robots are used to create several small ridges in the lunar dust over large areas that capture shadows and shape them to form logos, domains names, memorials or even portraits.
K… too far…. we’ve gone to far now.

What can we expect from you in the upcoming year?

I’ll be a “Featured Artist” in an upcoming edition of Photoshop Creative… and I’ll be going for back-to-back category wins in the Photoshop User Worldwide Photoshop Comp. Baby!! …I think I have just the piece to do it with. =)