Kelly Knaga (she /her) is an artist, illustrator, and muralist living and working on a beautiful piece of land just outside of Chicago. She designs fun projects for her clients by day while renovating a house and building her dream vegetable garden with her partner and 2 beautiful kiddos on nights and weekends.
Knaga’s work is influenced by nature, including her childhood growing up on her grandparents’ farm and living on the west coast. Her works investigate flora, natural landscapes, and relationships by layering shape, image, color, and story. The use of color exploits historical and sometimes fictional references through anthropological studies, mapmaking, and storytelling.
Knaga is also a design educator and co-founder of Art and Action Community Lab. Knaga’s work can be found in private collections, galleries, public art spaces, magazines, department stores, and on physical and digital products.
Please explain your thoughts and creative process behind the designs submitted.
A lot of my creative process starts outside in the natural world. The work I make is influenced by these environments, stories and conversations through shape, color, texture and line. They are recordings of form, of conversations or maps created through story and exploration.
Is there an underlying message you aim to communicate through your work, if so, what is it?
My work is about discovering, celebrating and telling stories about our relationship with the natural world.
Have there been any standout or pivotal moments in your life that have inspired you as a creative?
Honestly, I’m in awe of Mother Nature and the natural world daily. I don’t take her for granted one bit and am constantly exploring and celebrating her in my work. I also have my kiddos to thank for how my relationship with color has changed in my work. My work really digs into more of the emotional response rather than a true representation.
Where does your passion for your craft derive from?
Heck yeah, I have quite a few moments throughout my life where I felt inspired. Much of it begins in my childhood on my grandparents’ farm. They worked so hard to create and grow things in their fields and gardens. I was a witness to this everyday creativity and inextricable relationship with the land and Mother Nature. My mother was also a creative always making me clothes and dolls when I was a young kid. And when I got older she always drove me to all kinds of art classes to support my creative growth because they didn’t offer a lot in school. I also want to honor our community of creative mothers that gave me private lessons in their homes after school. I felt really supported in my artistic pursuits growing up. And while my dad really pushed back on my plan to go to university for a degree in painting I’m really grateful that he pushed me to pursue paths in visual design, illustration, and writing because now I get to make a living as a creative doing things I absolutely love.
What would your dream freelance job be and why?
Wow, that’s a big question and I don’t think I have a single answer for you. I like working with people that are doing good things in the world for communities in need and issues that need the world’s attention.
What does this collection mean to you?
This collection is about inspiring conversations that celebrate the ocean’s power while also raising awareness that it’s the responsibility of all of us to protect her.