Interview with Illustrator, Olivia Knapp

How did you get started doing what you do?
In 2010, when I was still working as a full-time Textile Designer, I was asked to create a t-shirt print inspired by an engraving of a Baroque relief. The process of reimagining this aesthetic with pen and paper was intensely enjoyable. By the time I completed the print I just wanted to do more. I experimented off and on with cross-hatching while maintaining my corporate job for a couple years. I then left my job and moved out of the city for nine months. During this time, I devoted myself to perfecting my cross-hatching technique. I started showing a few friends and gradually people started approaching me, wanting me to create logos and illustrations for them. And now, it’s my full-time gig. That t-shirt print was the birthplace of my cross-hatching style that I use today.

What’s your inspiration?
The complexities of people. I am particularly fascinated by the relationship between our intuition, cognition, and environment. However, I can’t always predict what will inspire me. I guess that’s the great thing about life- the unexpected. I am always trying to absorb new information and observe as much as possible. It’s my job to stay open.

What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at about 7:30 am, feed my dog, eat breakfast, then get to work. I spend about 5 hours a day drawing and 3 hours of emailing, writing, or conference calls. I have 30-60 minute breaks for lunch and dinner. Hopefully, I’ll make it to the gym in the evening.

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How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It can take 40 hours to 300 hours. It really depends on the size and detail of the piece.

How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
It greatly impacts my happiness and thus my work. I am a big advocate of high ceilings and white spaces with a lot of natural light. This sense of bright openness fosters creativity. My live/work space reflective this. I live in a loft in an industrial building with 13ft high ceilings with a white floor, white walls, and big west facing windows. There is something about expansive spaces and distant views that trigger an ethereal vigor; whether it’s in a church or looking out onto the ocean from a window seat.

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What do you want others to take away from your work?
I hope that they are moved by it. How and why they are moved is not for me to dictate.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Prioritize instead of making long-term goals. Priorities are directly related to your values, and for that reason, they keep you on the right track. Long-term goals are just a reflection of what you think you want.  You could be working really hard towards a goal, achieve it, and then realize that it doesn’t give you the satisfaction that you thought it would.

What are your thoughts on art school?
If you can’t afford it, don’t go. Having a large amount of student loan debt isn’t worth it. TRUST ME. These days there are so many opportunities for educating yourself online. In addition, see if there are weekly figure drawings or life drawing sessions/meetups that are open to the public in your neighborhood. Drawing from life is a must in order to hone your skills.

What art supplies do you use?
Micron Pens, Copic Pens, Mechanical Pencils, Faber-Castell White Erasers, Strathmore Bristol Plate 500 series (super smooth 100% cotton paper coated with a thin layer of clay)

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What’s your process like?
I need a few quiet hours of solitude for the ideas to start formulating in my head. I usually sit down on the sofa with a sketchbook in hand and just let my thoughts start drifting. Once I have an idea in mind. Often I’ll set up a still life that sometimes resembles a diorama, then take a series of reference photos. I usually take my own photos. Then I’ll sketch onto a cheap piece of paper. Once the sketch is complete I’ll trace it onto a nice piece cotton bristol and start inking.

Follow Olivia Knapp on Instagram and Facebook.



  1. Being an artist, a writer of fiction and an art historian, I suggest that your editing staff proof-read your text much more rigorously for a more professional impression on your readers, because your interviewees are fascinating, talented and intelligent. I read this interview with Olivia Knapp and also the one with Eric Fabbro, and each interview was riddled with typos and incomplete sentences.


    1. Hey Daniel,

      For the most part, it’s really just me working on the blog right now. I do it in my spare time and I try to get as many typos as I can but sometimes small errors do get missed. If I had an editing staff, I’d certainly hope that wouldn’t happen at all! Haha. Thanks for reading the interviews though, Daniel and I hope you have a nice week.




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