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.

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