Discover the talent of Will McNally who creates innovative portraits of music legends
For art lovers looking for an update to Pop Art, Will McNally would be a good place to start. The artist’s approach to painting has obviously been heavily influenced by the greats such as Andy Warhol, but has also been brought bang up to date with the inclusion of neon lighting and 21st-century subject matters. The result are paintings loaded with modern-day cultural and musical references; they are perfect for those that love their art accessible to all with a touch of humour.
McNally started painting as a youngster, but it was a chance conversation with his aunt that made him realise it could be a potential profession. His aunt was looking for ways to raise funds at a charity event and he offered to paint her something she could auction or sell. “I told her I could paint something,” he recalls, “which surprised her – at the time I’d never tell people I liked to paint, as I was worried people would think I was a geek, or nerdy, but at home I was getting stuck into it and it became a real passion”.
His worry that he would appear a geek or nerdy was unfounded. While his art has a humorous tinge to it, it’s mainly characterised by bright colours and cartoon-like features; many of his works have an edge. In the case of his artwork for his aunt, he chose the Kray twins – synonymous with East End London gang violence. Other works, like his series of Wolf of Wall Street paintings, are similarly light-hearted at first but have a darker undertone steeped in – representing the greed and gluttony of the film.
He manages this difficult balancing act through the use of colour, progressive painting techniques and use of neon lighting which is what makes his work so innovative. His works of music stars with untimely ends, like Amy Winehouse, are another good example of juxtaposing his bright style with darker subjects. McNally believes that it is his Irish-Cypriot upbringing that helps him produce his paintings in this way. “I think the boldness and the flamboyance of my work definitely has its roots in my Irish side. I’m lucky to have parents who came from such distinct, colourful cultures, and I think that has inspired me to paint and innovate the way I do.”
Plus, McNally adds another 21st-century string to his bow. He is an avid user of the social media platform Instagram, where he has amassed a following that’s 15,000 members strong. This has meant that he has managed to build a client list among the rich and famous from all over the world. In fact, most recently, one of his commissions has been for the widow of the late and much-loved opera singer Pavarotti, which he describes as hugely emotional.
“When she came to the office to view the piece it was a really touching moment. She was crying when she saw it. For me, that was a huge thing to see a reaction like that to something I made, it humbled me.”
The notion of staying humble is one that will help McNally no end in his career. With his artworks growing in value exponentially since he first started, and with Rod Stewart and the Saudi royal family being some of his clients, keeping his feet on the ground is incredibly important to him. So far, he has ostensibly managed to do so, which is perhaps embodied in a recent artwork of Stevie Wonder. Not satisfied with painting his subject in his tried and tested style, he wanted to continue to push his artistic boundaries instead. To do so, he taught himself braille.
‘I painted Stevie Wonder, but on his face it’s the braille for the lyrics to one of his famous songs. I want my art to be for everyone, and this was a way to reach out and create art for people who might not be able to see it.’
It is this humility and foresight that will undoubtedly help McNally remain a bankable star in the future. Given that some of his most expensive works already sell out quickly, like his images of the Joker, it looks like his own stardom is set to soar.
The editorial unit