We had the good fortune of connecting with Kenny McBride and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kenny, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I believe you are taking a “risk” any time you go left when others say go right. Risk is the circumvention of the You-have-to’s in life. Go to school, plan your career, buy a house and retire; well that’s no fun because now I know the whole plot and I’ve seen this movie play out way to many times. Risk seems to be a core ingredient in individual self expression. In my life I have only ever known absolutely that I am a creator and my purpose should be to honor that. I did not know when I was young the exact impact I would make but I knew that I wanted to inspire people to be good to them self and others. College and the prospect of climbing the career ladder as maybe an illustrator or animator seemed like a sure bet for security but not quite satisfying on the impact level. I work well in teams and with other’s ideas but true risk should be the faith to lean into your own ideas, no matter how large, and actualize them.
Risk takers can appear as fools to those around them and at times to their own self. It is because risk requires a lot of failure. Most people see failure as weakness and misdirection or lack of preparation. You prove yourself by overcoming yourself. You may run out of paint at a mural a few gallons early; costing you your groceries. You may misjudge your completion date by two weeks. You most likely will not get paid proportional to your labor at the outset. Gallons of paint may even collapse from your ladder at the peak of exhaust and in the final bleary hour. Just try not to make these mistakes twice. If you have not seen something you want to accomplish done by example than that is when risk becomes necessary. More often than not and through trial and error risk manifests life’s rewards.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a kid I was always fascinated with the idea of being able to draw things from my imagination. My grandma would drill me. She would say “Draw an ant on a lawn chair or draw the fire hydrant down the street without reference.” I loved these challenges as they not only strengthened my skills but also provided a healthy level of affirmation for me as a child living in a mobile home park surrounded by yelling. As I grew older entering these imaginary sanctuaries became more urgent with every accumulated responsibility. Why is life not as manageable as the page? Six years ago I had an art studio in Long Beach. At the studio I would create endless works at a breakneck pace. It was my studio-mate who finally critiqued that my art was masturbatory. I suppose that it had been all some sort of selfish pleasure act until that moment. I had done a few murals at this point and really found enjoyment from working large and transforming a space. It took a few years following the critique to realize that murals would become my ultimate form of expression and communication.
Through murals I have come to realize I can share that sanctuary that art provides for me with others. More specifically I can engage with a permanent space that the artwork lives in and furthermore with the people or community surrounding it. The greatest aha moment I have had is in discovering that my art doesn’t just help me but has the power to help others as well. Since that realization 4 years back, “To Inspire People in Their Spaces” has been my mission.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The great thing about Long Beach is that there is amazing public art almost every few blocks, especially several great Pow Wow murals as you approach downtown and district 1. Every street in downtown is quaint and walkable, treating you to local businesses tucked into every historic block. Long Beach has a very strong local pride and so you will find plenty of that throughout your shopping and wandering. While there is an amazing variety of small restaurants to choose from with food to satisfy any California diet, I would take you for greasy chili cheese fries at Louie Burgers.
But the best moments in Long Beach are spent in its nature. I enjoy relaxing at the Colorado Lagoon. Taking walks with the dogs and Anna at Rosie’s Dog Beach. I have spent many times painting in Bixby and El Dorado Park. At the end of the day the reason I moved to Long Beach is because the people who build the community are so friendly and present.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I could not achieve the scale of work and clients that I have without my wife and partner, Anna McBride. Anna and I met 15 years ago at Orange County High school of the Arts and have been inseparable since. As soon the murals became large enough to take a month or two to complete is when Anna took the leap and left her reliable corporate job in the green energy field. It is beautiful because we both want to do more than just paint for our selves and working together gives us the opportunity to push harder and deliver more impact in communities with our art.