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What’s In My Sketchbook? With Steve Knutson

A Look Inside the Unpublished Works of an Artist

As an artist myself, I would argue that the only thing more fascinating than an artist’s published works is their unpublished works. For an artist, a sketchbook is essentially a diary, an inspiration board and oftentimes simply just a place to jot down an idea. Unfortunately, artists are often their own worst critics, and for a variety of reasons, certain works remain tucked away in their sketchbooks, not allowed the chance to be properly appreciated for what they are—until now.

Welcome to the first of many artist features, focused solely on sharing exclusive unpolished artworks by local artists.

“I’ve been known to sketch on anything, even tape or glue things into my sketchbook because I liked them so much,” said Knutson, who will make a canvas out of just about anything to draw out ideas. He doesn’t necessarily have a fixed method for organizing his ideas and sketches. Rather, he has multiple sketchbooks and will begin drawing wherever he opens one up. For this reason, you’ll find drawings in both the front and back of his sketchbooks; there’s no specific order for where drawings are placed.

One very interesting element is that each page of sketches evolves over time; Knutson adds new sketches to old ones and continues to build layers and elements. “A [single] sketchbook could last me years because I like to keep adding things to it and changing things,” he said.

“A Sketchbook is a living, breathing kind of entity”

-Steve Knutson

“It’s a good place to put all my thoughts—but thoughts, I think, come and go in waves and you might have a thought a year ago and then it’ll come back to you again and you kind of tweak it. A sketchbook is a living, breathing kind of entity.”

Inside this particular sketchbook, Knutson created a variety of prints, experimenting with various techniques. He likes to print images from older TIME magazines and LIFE magazines from the 1950s to use as inspiration. He uses those prints to go back to, draw over and add to.

“It’s fun. Things change and evolve all the time and it helps me with my work to just to get ideas out there,” he said. “Then I can kind of fine-tune it on the canvas or in a mural.”

Knutson likes using toned gray sketch paper, especially to help highlights burst with white pencils. Wherever he goes, his sketchbook goes—and although he’ll sit down and draw just about anywhere, he feels most creative and comfortable in his studio space. Funny and lighthearted shows like Rhett and Link’s “Good Mythical Morning” also help Knutson stay inspired to create.

Knutson’s art style is influenced by a variety of genres, including Trompel’œil, graphic art, architectural and pop art—all of which become very apparent when browsing through his sketchbook.

One prominent art technique Knutson enjoys is “gelli” or gelatin prints, which consists of having a plate of gelatin, then applying a really thin coat of anchor paint. Next, you’ll place a really high-contrast photo or magazine print on top, apply pressure and evenly rub the print against the plate. When you peel it off, it’ll make a transfer. Finally, you let it dry for just a few minutes and repeat the process with another color on top. Not all paper inks work the same and there’s a lot of trial and error involved. Regardless, for Knutson, it’s been one of his favorite artistic obsessions.

Recently, he has been reconnecting with his teenhood in the late 90s, finding inspiration from magazines he enjoyed as a kid, especially Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. Reconnecting with inspirations from childhood helps Knutson navigate where his art is leading today.

“It’s fun because these are the things that I love to do that really don’t find the light of day in a gallery,” he said.

For Knutson, his sketchbook acts as a sort of “brain dump” to get ideas down that will later re-inspire him to continue to create. Call it an ecosystem of creativity, if you will.

To learn more visit steveknutsonart.com

Written by Josiah Kopp

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