Artist Creates Mural Using Signature Dot-and-Lozenge Technique

An age-old technique becomes a new calling for a designer-turned-artist Olivia Knapp
Jennifer McCullum  |   May 2016   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Knapp says her mural represents the growing creative community where she lives and works

Used by 16th-century masters of engraving, the dot-and-lozenge rendering method begins with a single point, followed by another, then another, ultimately becoming part of an elaborate, crosshatched composition. Seattle artist Olivia Knapp, who taught herself the technique four years ago, one step at a time, has gone through a similarly painstaking process in her creative evolution from corporate cog to free spirit. 

Used by 16th-century masters of engraving, the dot-and-lozenge rendering method begins with a single point, followed by another, then another, ultimately becoming part of an elaborate, crosshatched composition. Seattle artist Olivia Knapp, who taught herself the technique four years ago, one step at a time, has gone through a similarly painstaking process in her creative evolution from corporate cog to free spirit. 
After becoming disillusioned with textile- and service-designer roles for some of the fashion industry’s top houses, including Peter Som and Marc Jacobs, Knapp knew she needed to make a change. “In the textile and print world, unfortunately, a lot of people who commission you want knockoffs. I didn’t know what my own style was.” It wasn’t until 2010, when Knapp completed a freelance project for Eddie Bauer (a T-shirt design inspired by Baroque artwork), that she realized the art she wanted to create. “[It] was the beginning of me going down this rabbit hole and becoming obsessed with 16th-century engravings,” she says.
That rabbit hole was a studio apartment in Bellingham, where Knapp lived in self-imposed creative isolation for a year, supporting herself with her savings, while perfecting her craft. “I think people thought I was crazy, but I was desperate to do work that I cared about at that point,” she says. “I had a lot of solitude, spent hours on the Internet reading and teaching myself the techniques of old artists like Albrecht Dürer and Hendrick Goltzius.”
As her savings began to dwindle, Knapp started showing people her drawings, and then returned to Seattle as she slowly landed commissioned work—the latest of which is the 40-by-8-foot mural in the Prudential Building in Pioneer Square: a contemporary design created using her now signature dot-and-lozenge method. In depicting interlocking olive branches with modern-day power cords, Knapp says, the mural pairs symbols of old and new to represent the building’s growing independent creative community. The theme was uniquely inspiring for Knapp as she herself is a member of that community: The Prudential Building houses her studio, where she lives and works. “The process added to my original motivation behind the piece, because I was meeting new people, my neighbors, as I was painting,” she says. “The work had real meaning on multiple levels.” 

After becoming disillusioned with textile- and service-designer roles for some of the fashion industry’s top houses, including Peter Som and Marc Jacobs, Knapp knew she needed to make a change. “In the textile and print world, unfortunately, a lot of people who commission you want knockoffs. I didn’t know what my own style was.” It wasn’t until 2010, when Knapp completed a freelance project for Eddie Bauer (a T-shirt design inspired by Baroque artwork), that she realized the art she wanted to create. “[It] was the beginning of me going down this rabbit hole and becoming obsessed with 16th-century engravings,” she says.


“Prehensility,” one of Knapp’s original hand drawings. Learn when prints are available for purchase ($45–$300) by signing up for the artist’s newsletter on oliviaknapp.com

That rabbit hole was a studio apartment in Bellingham, where Knapp lived in self-imposed creative isolation for a year, supporting herself with her savings, while perfecting her craft. “I think people thought I was crazy, but I was desperate to do work that I cared about at that point,” she says. “I had a lot of solitude, spent hours on the Internet reading and teaching myself the techniques of old artists like Albrecht Dürer and Hendrick Goltzius.”


Artist Olivia Knapp’s mural in the interior entryway of the Prudential Building in Pioneer Square was made using the dot-and-lozenge rendering method, traditionally used by 16th century masters of engraving

As her savings began to dwindle, Knapp started showing people her drawings, and then returned to Seattle as she slowly landed commissioned work—the latest of which is the 40-by-8-foot mural in the Prudential Building in Pioneer Square: a contemporary design created using her now signature dot-and-lozenge method. In depicting interlocking olive branches with modern-day power cords, Knapp says, the mural pairs symbols of old and new to represent the building’s growing independent creative community. The theme was uniquely inspiring for Knapp as she herself is a member of that community: The Prudential Building houses her studio, where she lives and works. “The process added to my original motivation behind the piece, because I was meeting new people, my neighbors, as I was painting,” she says. “The work had real meaning on multiple levels.”