Thicket Zine

Thicket booklet set outside in between small tree branches.

Thicket zine is a collection of illustrations done over the course of 2020. What I initially thought would take a few weeks ended up consuming the better part of a year as I continued to add to this series and refine the illustrations.

When I started this project back in February, I had just left my full time job and was looking forward to attending all sorts of arts events in the coming year, meeting people and sharing and selling my work. Of course the world had different plans.

As the name Thicket implies, these drawings are dense, tangled landscapes. They attempt to embody the disorienting nature of a forest or jungle. Mysterious, chaotic, easy to get lost in. Some of the drawings also incorporate writing in the form of short, cryptic words and messages.

I have always been more interested in setting a mood than telling a specific story through my art. So while my work is not intentionally ‘about’ the state of the world today, a general feeling of confusion, disorientation, malaise, but also hope are prevalent throughout.

The prototype for this zine, also called Thicket, was created back in 2019 for a group art show I put on with my friends Jeneane Dunlap and Mary Sundermeier. That zine of improvised ink drawings of dense landscapes and writhing plant life took a few weeks to make and I handled every aspect of the printing and book-making myself.

For this version I wanted something more refined. Instead of tiny, improvised drawings that I could complete in an hour, each illustration in this book went through a process of sketching, refined pencil drawing, inking, and digital touch up. Multiply that by more than 30 drawings and it makes sense why this project has taken more than half a year to complete.

Spread from book showing illustration of hand holding a flower.

In addition to more time spent on drawing, I wanted the printing to be better this time around as well. I had heard about Clatter Press in Columbus which does risograph printing, and wanted an excuse to use them. I love the look of risograph printing, and felt it could add some rich texture and color to this project.

My goal was to make something that could serve as a neat encapsulation of my work, and send it out into the world. I’m very pleased with how the book turned out, and I hope it gets into the hands of people who will appreciate it.

Thicket is available to purchase in my online store.

Crafting a Home on the Web

Webpage for Kyle Knapp illustration and design with links and illustration.
My simple handmade website

Over the last week or two I designed and coded a simple webpage containing links to my various websites, social media accounts, and projects. There are many services that let you make pages just like this quickly and easily, but I chose to do it the hard way.

Having dabbled over the years with learning HTML and CSS, I knew this was something I could do, and with a desire to learn new skills and retain ownership and control of my home online I figured this was also something I should do.

I was partially inspired by a blog post by Robin Sloan where he compares creating an app for just his family to use to making a home-cooked meal. As someone who would describe both his coding and cooking abilities as “okay I guess,” this analogy struck a cord.

I have always been interested in the possibilities of coding, and have dipped my toes in the water a handful of times, but have never really finished project that has been put out into the world for others to see and use.

My experience with programming has always involved coming upon a problem whose solution refuses to be identified. I can pinpoint what a problem is, even find out what solution is supposed to fix it, but after implementing it something will still be wrong that I just can’t figure out. And usually this is where I stop.

While making this simple page, the first 90% of the work was finished within an hour or two, while the last 10% took me several hours over a few days to figure out and eventually resolve. There were several times when I almost resorted to texting one of my web developer friends to help me out, but I pressed on and eventually figured things out on my own. It was hard, but I think pushing through was worth it.

Why go through all this trouble? First and foremost is just because it’s fun to learn how to make new things, and it feels really good to say I made this webpage all by myself. Beyond that, I have an intense interest in independent media and culture of all kinds, including on the web. Since everyone has been packed into the few remaining huge social media sites, it feels important to push back on that a little by creating a home for myself and my art on the internet that I control, or as Austin Kleon would put it, “own your turf.”

So if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to, come visit knapp.studio.

An Ear to the Unknown

I distinctly remember a time in high school, one weekend night just at home hanging out in my room. I had on the great Cleveland-area college radio station WRUW, operating out of Case Western Reserve University, and they were playing indie music, a genre I had never heard of at the time. In that hour a whole new world opened up to me, and without too much exaggeration I would say it changed my life.

Over the years I’ve collected music in almost every way possible. While still in high school I would buy CDs, but more often check them out of the library to rip onto my computer. I used early file sharing software such as Limewire, Kazaa, and Soulseek. In college I would download albums directly from independent music blogs. Now, almost anything can be streamed directly from Spotify or Youtube, or downloaded from Bandcamp.

At a time when new music is served up via algorithmic playlists on Spotify or Youtube, it’s an exciting feeling to be in the hands of a human with a unique point of view. Over the last year or so I have made NTS.live my primary source of new music for just that reason.

When you come to the site and press play on one of the two continuous live streams broadcasting from studios all around the world, you are trusting the DJ to bring you not only something new, but something you probably never would have thought to seek out for yourself at all. Artists and even entire genres of music are ripe for discovery if you place your trust in someone else to pick them out for you.

One thing that internet radio offers which is genuinely hard to find these days is mystery. Hearing something that can’t immediately be identified, and which you may potentially never hear again, is an experience that is getting more rare as the internet attempts to make every piece of information available as frictionlessly as possible. Maybe not everything should be readily available in seconds. Maybe having to wait, or having to tune in at just the right time, makes what you end up finding that much more special.

Here are some of my favorite episodes:

Miniature: Bruits de la Passion’s Miniature live in the studio, playing oddball house & indie rock from Pylon, Weyes Blood & more.

ONY: A moody mix of soundtrack, ambient, chopped n’ screwed, and trap.

Getting Warmer: Jen Monroe compiles a cozy mix of shoegaze, folk, and pop.

Immediate Hits: Dan Russell from Manchester’s very own trash-punks The Hipshakes steps into the NTS studio once a month for an hour long barrage of punk, DIY, garage and more.

My First Typeface – Process Post

Spring Fling font alphabet in light, medium, and bold weights.
Spring Fling alphabet in light, medium, and bold weights. Download.

As a graphic designer, it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at making a full typeface. Designing one presented some new challenges and learning opportunities, and I want to be sure to document and share my process.

For my first typeface, I wanted to create something that felt personally meaningful and also a bit forgiving, so I made a font based on my own handwriting. This allowed for a number of fun idiosyncrasies and quirks that differentiate it from standard fonts.

I began the process by writing out the alphabet in my sketchbook before drawing it in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I then took this drawing into Illustrator to create each letter out of vector paths.

Here is where I allowed myself the easy way out by using paths instead of shapes. By using strokes, I was able to alter the font weight by increasing or decreasing the stroke width, rather than recreate each letter shape.

In creating each letter form, I tried to strike a balance between the expressiveness of my handwriting and making a cohesive set of letters that work well together. I did a lot of tweaking to make sure that every curve was pleasantly round, and every stroke was gently curved without being wonky or crooked.

Once I had made the entire alphabet including numbers and punctuation, I exported each letter as a separate SVG file so that I could import it into Glyphr Studio, a free program made to streamline the font design process. There are probably more robust programs with more features, but Glyphr was able to let me import my letters, size and kern them, and export a font file.

The export process caused a few headaches. Glyphr can export as OTF but in doing so loses the kerning that I had set. I got around this by exporting an SVG font, which does retain kerning, and converting it to OTF using an online file conversion tool. Here I ran into some more issues with the different weights of my font being flagged as duplicates in Font Book and not working properly. Eventually, I found TransType 4 which I downloaded as a free trial to sort out my final font files.

No typeface would be complete without a type specimen. I decided to make an animated one so it would look cool on instagram, and because I am a show off.

Being able to take something from an idea to final product, while learning new tools and processes along the way, is always a rewarding experience. I am trying to make more of an effort to document my creative process, since I feel that typically I am too quick to finish a project and move on, without taking time to reflect. So this blog is an effort to do more of that.

Download my font for free

My First Zine

Animated gif of a zine opening and closing.

I have been a fan of zines, comics, and printed media in general for forever, and at long last I got around to making one for myself.

Thicket is 20 pages of improvised drawings of dense, abstract landscapes done in the week or two leading up to an art show I put on with two of my best friends.

Everything was done at home. Of course I had to go out and get new ink cartridges for my printer (there goes $75), and a pack of 25,000 staples since that was the only amount available at Target (of which I probably used less than 100.) I was also very lucky to borrow a paper cutter from my friend, which I hadn’t planned on but the moment I used it realized that the entire project would have been maddening if not impossible without it.

So with supplies ready, I got into the rhythm to printing, cutting, folding, and stapling, eventually producing about 30 zines, plus a couple of early test copies. I’m pretty happy with the little guys, they’re a cute 3″ x 5″ and made a great giveaway item at our art show. I also got to mail out a handful to friends living out of town.

I’ve loved and collected zines for years, so it was incredibly satisfying to finally make one of my own. Zines are a cornerstone of DIY culture, and now I can say that I’ve, you know, done it myself!

And Away We Go

What does it mean to start a blog in 2019? On the one hand it seems hopelessly outdated. People have been announcing the death of blogging for years now, and with several prominent independent sites closing their doors recently, it might appear to be a lost cause completely.

But we can’t just let the big social media sites steamroll any hope of an independent web. And one way to do that is to defiantly maintain our own presence on the internet outside of their gates.

I’ve had my own website for years to showcase my art portfolio, and now seems just as good a time as any to expand my little home on the internet. The social media dominated internet feels toxic, addictive, and shrill, and even though I still manage to find to find amazing new artists, writers, and people making genuinely interesting stuff, it often feels like a net negative on my own mental well being and creative practice. There’s got to be a better way!

This site will be an ongoing experiment to figure out what I want to see on the internet, and how to live online in a way that doesn’t break my brain. Just me following my own curiosity and sharing what I discover.