Rider’s Lens: Chris McNally’s Illustration

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In this edition of Rider’s Lens, we’re showcasing the clever and colorful illustrations of Chris McNally, whose work you might recognize from The Bikepacking Journal and around the web. Read on for some thoughts on how illustration has changed his perspective on cycling, along with a diverse selection of his watercolors…

Words and illustrations by Chris McNally (@the.scorps)

Growing up in Colorado, my sister and I spent a lot of time outdoors. We were able to roam freely, taking bikes to explore trails, four-wheel drive roads, and things off the beaten path. Our time spent outside was magical and it shaped who I have become and the work I love to do today.

Two currents that have persisted have been drawing and cycling. Both take focus and interpretation of your surroundings. And both have influenced my life and the places I’ve chosen to live. I first left Colorado for the Bay Area, had a short stint in New York, then made my way back to San Francisco. After my final move to the Bay Area, I began to take sketchbooks on rides and campouts to document my experiences and discovered how drawing and cycling could influence each other. Sketchbooks have always been part of my illustration and design process, but up until this point I never took them on rides with me.

  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens

The best projects are those where I get to collaborate with others. My work with Blackburn and Ibis are perfect examples of this. Some of my favorite work was my collaboration with Brian Vernor and Robin Sansom on Blackburn projects. This work was amazing because we could develop ideas, create stories, and find inspiration during week-long trips we took together. I learned so much from both Vernor and Sansom: how they approach an idea, tell a story, and look at the world.

The crew at Ibis have also been fantastic to work with. The projects are fresh and exciting because of the diverse group of interests and backgrounds on the team. I also believe in and respect Ibis’ approach to designing bikes. And I love riding their bikes and having the opportunity to make art about loving to ride their bikes.

Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens

  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens

Another fun project I’ve been working on is a series of mixed media prints. I have been experimenting with taking line drawings made while on rides, turning them into letterpress prints and screen prints, and individually watercoloring each one. I can make print editions of my watercolors this way.

I love texture and light. I often find myself transfixed by both and enjoy bringing those elements into my work. The desert is my favorite place to draw, and I jump on any chance I can get to ride and draw in the southwest. I never tire of Arizona, New Mexico, the Colorado Western Slope.

Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens

At a minimum, I always have a few pens and a sketchbook on me. They are like my security blanket. I usually carry a small sketchbook, a handful of Micron pens, a couple pencils, and a watercolor kit of travel brushes and folding watercolor palette. These supplies fit into a hip pack or handlebar bag.

I can’t encourage sketching outside enough. I find when I draw outside, I stop to look at the world. This practice is my mediation, it helps me clear my mind and helps find balance in life along with riding.

  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens
  • Chris McNally, Illustration, Watercolor, Rider's Lens

Headlands Collection Launch Party

Want to check out some of Chris’ work in person? If you’re in Denver this week, don’t miss the launch of the new Headlands Collection, a line of adventure apparel and accessories that Chris worked on in collaboration with Swift Industries and Coal Headwear. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the WTF Bikexplorers.

What: The Headlands Collection Launch Party
When: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 6 PM – 9 PM MDT
Where: EVO (860 Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80203)

Find information and RSVP here.

Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank Chris for illustrating Whitney Ford-Terry’s piece “Exhibition Expedition” in The Bikepacking Journal 01, and also for creating the “Pedal Further, Pack Less” watercolor print that we included with each copy of The Bikepacking Journal 02. As longtime fans of his work, it’s been great getting to share some of his illustrations with our readers, both in print and here today.

Chris McNally

About Chris McNally

Chris McNally is a San Francisco-based design illustrator. Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, cycling and the great outdoors have always influenced his work. Visit his online portfolio or find him on Instagram @the.scorps to see more of his watercolors.

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