Shawn Knight, a.k.a. designer and illustrator Pinky Blaster, has created art and music since an early age. Followers of the Detroit music scene may recognize his name – previously of the band New Grenada, Knight now performs in the high-energy punk band Child Bite. The band is notorious for its wide range of instruments, humorous live performances, and its members’ impressive facial hair.
While in high school, Knight began playing in punk and metal bands. These two genres influenced him heavily while he was growing up; he notes both Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys as significant influences. Knight got his start designing local band fliers and posters, and he continues to use live music as an opportunity to expose his artistic skills — though now at a national level.
His impressive list of music clients includes bands such as Faith No More, Ween, The Dead Weather, Jimmy Eat World, Dan Deacon, The Jesus Lizard, Russian Circles, Lightning Bolt, and Of Montreal. Beyond his uniquely designed rock posters, Knight also creates indie movie posters, album artwork, packaging, typography, and various other web-design and illustration work. His artwork for Make History by Thunderbirds Are Now! made it onto Rolling Stone’s top-50 album-artwork list in 2006. Knight also recently designed the vibrantly colored T-shirts for Faith No More’s 2010 reunion tour dates in Australia and New Zealand.
Knight creates a decent amount of work by hand – generally, in the form of drawing out type with Sharpies, or cutting up old magazine images for collages. These basic sketches then find their way to a scanner and are tweaked in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Knight graduated from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies in 2000, and he says simply of his design process, “Working rough ideas out really fast was what I was taught in school — and it works.”
The successfully rendered collage work in Knight’s art is by far one of its most compelling and eye-catching attributes. However, Knight recognizes the importance of using found imagery in an appropriate manner. “I try to mess with the found stuff enough to make it my own…which was a moral dilemma of mine for a long time,” he says. “As long as it’s old, unrecognizable, and manipulated beyond the original intent for the image, I’m good with incorporating it.”
Knight’s work incorporates hand-rendered typography with humorous and often ironic imagery. His posters tend to include thick, black, Xerox-quality outlines in contrast with large blocks of neon hues. The dark outlines surround playful, thought-provoking collages, and the text is often reminiscent of vintage newspaper headings or advertisements.
As far as poster art versus album art, Knight prefers poster art – partially due to the lack of involvement that the musicians usually have. “I think a lot of the process happens inside of the artist’s head without [him or her] really being that aware of it,” he says. “When it’s time to work with someone else, it can be jarring.”
Currently, Knight works as a freelance designer in Ferndale, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). He delved into the process of screen-printing roughly a year ago and is by no means bored with the technique yet. He recently finished working on a rock poster for The Thermals, but soon, those outside of indie-rock circles will better know his work; Knight landed a gig doing movie posters for the new Tron film.