A self-proclaimed color addict, Oklahoma City-based visual artist Tiffany McKnight was born in Miami, Florida, and received her BFA in studio art with a focus in printmaking from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. She pivoted away from printmaking in 2014 to
embrace a kaleidoscopic body of work that includes pattern-making, graphic design and illustration. She creates artworks that feature both digitally manipulated and hand-drawn designs that are vibrant in color, highly detailed and visually complex in nature. Her work is a fine balance of over-stimulating chaos with repetitious harmony that is inspired by African textiles, Art Nouveau, biology and natural flora and fauna.
McKnight is the author of NUVEAU: The Future of Patterns, an intensely detailed coloring book for pattern lovers, published by Penny Candy Books. She is also a contributing illustrator in the book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina. You can find her patterns on the labels of San Francisco’s Clearly Kombucha products, luxury wallpaper produced in collaboration with SixTwelve and Ketch Design Centre and wrapping paper for the Curbside Chronicle’s “Wrap Up Homelessness” program. In 2017, she was chosen as one of the contributing artists for Factory Obscura, an art collective bringing new, immersive art experiences to Oklahoma City, and continued her work through 2020 with their first permanent experience, Mix-Tape. She is now embarking on her journey as an entrepreneur, and has taken the steps to create her first creative consulting company in partnership with her longtime partner, collaborator and artist Kyle Van Osdol. Called People by People, it plans to launch in early 2021.
Q. Briefly tell our readers how you got into the field of graphic design.
First and foremost, I was privileged to attend a liberal arts school (Holland Hall) in Tulsa, which played a huge role in my initial interest in the visual arts. After several years of being in painting, drawing, choir and pottery, I knew the arts was a field I wanted to pursue in life … One of my older siblings, Nat McKnight. was at the University of Oklahoma studying fine arts, specifically printmaking, and I’d heard so many good things about the head printmaking professor Curtis Jones and his excellent teaching skills. So I decided to apply to OU and continue to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time artist.
Q. What artists do you gravitate toward?
I am inspired by artists who create outside of a homogeneous structure. Artists that use color, ingenuity, vision and gusto in their work – artists that create from a place of authenticity and joy, not the tired old trope of “the starving artist” or “great artists that steal.” I am no longer interested in looking at or admiring artists that are not creating with every fiber of their being. A few artists that come to mind for me is Yayoi Kusama, Lina Viktor, Kehinde Wiley, Trevor Stuurman, FKA Twigs … artists that bring life to anything that they touch.
Q. What influences your work and where do you look for inspiration?
A. I’m primarily influenced by science and the macro world. I love collecting and looking at macro photography, so much so my partner got me a microscope so I can explore my own curiosities from the comfort of my home. I also love looking at African textiles, interior design, fashion photography – and honestly, a huge one is music. Music plays a huge role in my creative process. You’ll never find me working in complete silence, it’s just not my vibe.
Q. What space or element in your own home do you love?
A. One of my favorite spaces in my home is my living room. One of my designs acts as the centerpiece and inspiration for the room and is one of the primary reasons we took a risk and invested in a purple couch. It’s also one of the rooms that has the majority of my plant babies, gets the most sunlight and is the most relaxing. Anytime I feel drained, I like to replenish myself in this space and just focus on the tranquility to reset.