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Conversations with John Knell

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Knell.

Hi John, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
My adventure began in the late sixties in the small town of Carthage Missouri. I grew up in a White House, on a quiet street, with a Funeral Director Father, a stay-at-home Mother, a miniature dachshund named Hugo, and 2 large trees in the front yard.

I discovered a love for the arts at a very early age and spent many hours during my youth at the drawing board…armed with pencils, pens, markers, paper, and imagination.

A deep passion for the act of creativity and storytelling was fostered in me during those years and it was from those innocent beginnings that my work has progressed into a lifelong career calling of creativity and artistic exploration. First, as an independent graphic designer running my own design shop until now as the chief creative ruckus maker at John Knell: Impact Driven Art.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Part of the beauty of any journey is the fact that most journeys are very rarely a straight line from point a to b. There are twists and turns. Lows and highs. Success and failure. Wins and losses. Any journey worth taking is one worth navigating these landscapes along the way.

Being an independent operator since 1999, which is when I opened my first design studio, I’ve had my fair share of challenges…starting with simply deciding to follow my passion and to actually make the leap and start a business. Outside of that, I’ve had the “usual” challenges that any small business owner would have. Growing clients. Doing good work. Managing cash flow. Marketing your services etc… The requirements of working by yourself can be daunting and overwhelming at points so you just try to maintain focus and keep grinding on what needs to be done at any given moment while trying to staying sane. B.B. King has this great song that goes “You better not look down if you want to keep flying. Put the hammer down…keep it full speed ahead. You better not look back or you might just wind up crying…you can keep it moving if you don’t look down.”

As such…maintaining a work/life balance was always critical to me. My family was, and is, the most important thing in my life, and being able to be there for them, both physically and emotionally, is always a priority. Sometimes it takes some creative juggling to make all of that happen but it’s always been worth it to me to go the extra bit to make it work.

My current struggles consist of simply trying to build an audience, to be authentic to my vision while also finding ways to create art that moves the needle and gets out in the world to everyone who needs it. Sometimes I feel like I’m shouting to myself out into the void where no one is listening, or cares, but I always work off the premise that 1>0 so if I can make the difference in just 1 person for that day then I’ve done my job.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I describe my work as the exploration of the interconnected relationships between texture, color, value, and line with a particular emphasis on how they all co-exist in visual space and their complex interplay with each other.

Outside of the art speak….what this means to me is I enjoy combining seemingly unrelated things in interesting and unique ways to create brand new and exciting forms.

I imagine myself as a graffiti artist who comes back to the same wall year after year to add new layers of color and texture to their art. As such I want my art to have a beautifully rough and distressed look with many colors and textures overlaying each other and all in various states of used application and intensity.

I started out working in the medium of collage as I was inspired by artist Robert Rauschenberg and his approach to applying color, texture, and images together to form interesting and visually complex pieces of work. When Covid hit, and the world shut down, I took the time to revisit an early love of mine, drawing, and was able to work on, and refine, a very particular illustrative technique that I am currently focusing on with the hope of working with it indefinitely for the foreseeable future.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Consistency. The ability to work every day and knowing that each day will, like laying bricks, build upon the next Empathy – the ability to create and share a feeling through my work.
Passion – Art is my passion. It is what I do and I wouldn’t know how to do anything else.

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