In mid-November, we had a chance to sit down with Chris McNally, known around here as McGnardog. Chris has worked with Blackburn as an illustrator for the past several years, and joined in adventures throughout North and South America. In many ways, his storytelling has become integral to the brand. (Recently, one of Chris’ illustrations for Blackburn has been immortalized on our newest product, the “Get Out There T-shirt.”)
When did you start riding?
I got a bit of a late start; I think I was about 8. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado, we didn’t have a cul-de-sac so much as a really steep hill. I started riding ‘for real’ in elementary school. We had a babysitter/house painter at the time named Steve. My parents would go on long trips overseas and leave us with him. He taught me to mountain bike in the mountains of Colorado.
All in all, it was a scenario that would never happen these days, but ended up being hugely influential. I remember he had this junker of a car that we’d take the the trailhead. The door latch didn’t work, so it was held closed with a bungee cord instead. But if we went around too big of a right hand turn, the door would swing open. It was my sister’s and my job to hold the door closed. It was worth it though. He also bought my my first cassette tape, Wizard of Ozz by Ozzy Osbourne.
When did you start drawing?
Baby, I was born this way. Honestly, growing up in the mountains had some serious perks. But it also meant that it was difficult to get anywhere without harassing my parents. Once I showed interest in art, there were always supplies around the house to keep me busy, and I was regularly receiving colored pencils and whatnot for my birthday. It kept me occupied.
Why professional art? What else would you be doing?
I’ve thought about that question a lot, to be honest. And I can’t think of anything else I’d want to be doing. At one point, I thought about building bikes. But I took a class and read some books, and built the worst riding bike I’ve ever seen. And at the end of it all, I still wanted to be drawing instead. It’s funny, we’re always hearing ‘follow your passion!’, yet sometimes I wish I had a laundry list of backup plans. Something that might pay the bills a little easier. But in the end, I’m happy.
Why illustrate bikepacking?
Bikepacking is a slow way of moving through the world that allows a perspective that racing or driving don’t. There’s lots of time to look around, stop, and think. And that mindset works really well with drawing.
What’s the most rewarding part of illustrating?
I suppose getting to hang out with Brian Vernor. But really, I have a fascination with drawn line. It’s almost like a desire that needs to be fulfilled, a deep satisfaction, in seeing a line come to life on the page. And, I love storytelling. It’s easier through drawing than words.
Why don’t you STRAVA?
Why is your STRAVA on private?
(Chuckles) I just use it to record, more for my own memory. It’s not because I don’t want people to see that Vernor might be faster than me.
What draws you to the west? (Pun intended)
I grew up in Colorado and came to California for school. I had a small stint in New York after that, but the climate drew me back to California. I suppose I’m just most comfortable out here. And I have a visceral visual connection to the landscape here. The stark contrasts of large and small, dark and light, are captivating.