Interview: Peter McKinstry

Peter McKinstry is an illustrator currently working in the video game industry at Rare. Born in 1973 during the height of the Pertwee era, Peter was the only boy in a family of 6 girls – he went on to study Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art. He has produced a range of work from sci-fi, examples such as Star Wars and George Lucas to The Beatles. He also has an interest in illustrating Doctor Who, a diversity of work from portraits to comic-book styles of work. Peter illustrated the Sands of Time e-book for BBCi, and among his favourite artists are Doctor Who Weekly comic strip artists Dave Gibbons.

So Peter, what first got you interested in art, when did you realize that this was the type of career you wished to pursue?

I was lucky in that I was encouraged from an early age, particularly by my dad, who would spend hours drawing with me, – he was my first and best teacher.

What courses/qualifications did you undertake and at which university?

While I was still at secondary school I ended up being selected to take part in special ‘junior drawing classes’ at the Glasgow School of Art. At the time the GSA had a massive reputation for producing successful painters, one of which had previously gone to the same secondary I was at. So I was keen to go, but found that by the time of my degree show the painting and drawing had become unfashionable in the tutors eyes and that the thing to do was glue a kitchen table to the ceiling and call it art. I was there for 4 years in the fine art department, mostly in the life painting room, covered in oils, staring at the naked people and avoiding the tutors.

What was your first artistic job upon leaving university or college?

A group of us ended up being asked to show some work at a gallery in London, an experience which was so deflating that I decided commercial art was the way to go- I think the first thing was a set of cartoons for a Scottish Power(electricity company) leaflet.

What are your influences, artistically and generally?

Artistically, I’d say the likes of Frank Frazetta, Iain McCaig, Dave Gibbons (as a kid I used to sit and try to copy page for page his Dr who strips) Cam Kennedy’s work I love too…Brian Froud -there are so many great artists and illustrators though.

As well as being an aspiring illustrator for Doctor Who, when did your interest in Doctor Who begin?

I loved it as a kid, Destiny of Daleks is the first one I remember watching, I think. I didn’t really understood what was going on ( I struggle to follow some of the plots now sometimes- Leisure Hive or GhostLight being prime examples) but I think its more a case of being drawn in by the character of the Doctor. Tom Baker knew exactly what he was doing, even when he didn’t. I could also never get enough of the TARDIS. I totally destroyed my school desk, one of the old fashioned flip top type, by drawing controls all over it and pretending it was the console.

Did you have a favourite story or villain or particular character you admired? Similarly who couldn’t you stand?

Favourite villain, was mostly the Daleks, Sil is a great villain too. My turn offs were Mel, Ace, Glitz, all that lot. Nyssa was a drag too. But no one comes close to that pair in the Twin Dilemma.

You have worked at a professional level for Doctor Who on the BBCi ebook “The Sands of Time”, how was it and is there anything that you would particularly like to work on in Doctor Who that would interest you?

It was great, the deadline was nice and tight, the people at BBCi are very laid back and easy to deal with. It was great fun to do and a thrill to be asked. Id love to be part of the design team for the new show.

Did you have a particular favourite piece you worked on regarding Who and which Doctor do you favour drawing?

I really enjoyed drawing the black and white image of the Mummies passing the drunk in the alley way from the Sands of Time e-book. The daftness of that appealed to me . It was easy to imagine that as a piece of tv Dr Who, the drunk doing a double take at these two huge monsters pass by. As for a favourite Doctor to draw it’s a toss up between curly mop and Tristan.

Do you have any Who-related image in your head that you have been unable to realize?

One of the benefits of my job is that you are constantly challenging yourself to get down on paper whatever is in your head, and usually it needs to be done yesterday. That’s made me confident in my ability to do that. It’s the inspiration and ideas themselves which can be hard work. A lot of it is in doing thorough research, building up a visual vocabulary that you can use and draw from.

What did you think when the show ended in 1989 and did you worry that it might effect your work with the show?

By that time I was glad to see the back of it, I still watched but wasn’t bothered if I’d missed it. I was hoping it would go out on a bang but was so disappointed by Survival, at the end, I just thought, ‘is that it?’

Which artist do you currently admire and what was the last piece of work you saw that inspired you to work?

My Norman Rockwell calendar is my new favourite thing. Other than that, there are some great artists where I work, really talented people producing all sorts of coolness.

What are your expectations of the new series and what do you think of the casting choices?

I can’t wait to see it. Part of me doesn’t want to build it up in my mind too much but on the other hand I have faith that its going to blow us all away, hopefully the general public will latch onto it too and it will be the massive success we all hope it will be.

The casting I can’t fault, theres not one name that’s made me think somethings going awry. CE is brilliant, I remember thinking how good he was in Cracker, particularly his final appearance, it was gut wrenching.

I’m a big “Spaced”/”Shaun of the Dead” fan too so it’ll be fun to see Simon Pegg pop up.

As an artist, what do you think of the probable visual direction (CGI, lighting and colour, sets etc) of the new series?

It’s all guess work till we see the TARDIS interior- I think that’s what a lot of people are waiting for . I really hope they can keep the lid on it till the first episode airs. They’ve got some of the best people in the industry working on the visuals, so I hope there’s going to be an ‘art of’ book.

The sneak peaks we’ve had so far all look great- I thought the teaser trailer was really tantalizing..’RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!’

Do you think the new series should retain continuity from the show or shy away as much as possible?

I wouldn’t be too bothered if there were very few cont refs. Its all context, as long as they work, fine. I think this is one of the many things RTD and co are pretty savvy about.

What direction do you expect your career to develop in? Do you expect to be associated with Doctor Who in the future?

Do I expect it? I wouldn’t dare. On the other hand, you never know whats round the corner.

Would you like to be associated with Doctor Who in the future?

That’s a trick question, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t!?

For more information on Peter, you can visit his personal website currently under construction here.. You can also view his work on the BBCi ebook ‘The Sands of Time’ by visiting here. The BBC have also just posted Sherlock Holmes online with more work from Peter, find it here. would like to thank Peter McKinstry for taking the time to speak with us.



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