Graphic designer Shannon Knepper cut her creative teeth in Seattle and Pittsburgh, but for the past five years, she’s called San Jose home. With a focus on printmaking, Shannon creates greeting cards, T-shirts, and other 2D art through her brand, War Admiral Press. More recently, she’s started a new project called Bike City: San Jose, inspired by the South Bay’s love of all things bicycle. Between her new line of bike art, freelance jobs, and personal projects, Shannon has quickly found her niche in the South Bay community though her eye-catching work.
What brought you to San Jose?
We lived in Pittsburgh for five years while my husband was attending school. We stayed there until he got a job offer from San Jose State University in 2013. Since then, I’ve just been learning what makes San Jose cool. For example, one night I saw the bike party roll past my house, and I said to myself, “What’s this? This seems too weird for San Jose.” On the surface, it doesn’t seem that quirky, but just like with any new city when you move, you just have to look around a little bit, then all of the sudden you see what makes it special.
Where do you get inspiration for your work?
I’ve always done things like silkscreening and letterpress stuff. There’s always some element of printmaking involved; that’s what I like to do best. I love any kind of vintage sports stuff. I get a lot of inspiration from books I find in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, the main branch in San Jose. It’s an amazing place-they have a treasure trove of old books with great illustrations.
How has moving to San Jose influenced your work?
I started doing San Jose-inspired posters and prints since moving here. For example, there’s something of an orange sauce obsession in San Jose. La Victoria Taqueria and Angelou’s Mexican Grill, both local restaurants, have their own versions. So I made a design of a row of orange bottles as a tribute to the sauce. I’m learning what makes San Jose cool and doing some of my art around that; I feel like there’s space for that. When I go to shops
around here, I don’t see San Jose-branded stuff. There doesn’t seem to be a huge sense of pride. When you go to other cities, the airports are full of local art, but San Jose has some growing to do in that way. The artists are here, but we’re still finding our place.
What has inspired some of your bike-themed art?
There’s a lot of weird bike history in San Jose. The first velodrome was built here, and there’s another one in Hellyer County Park. There’s a lot of weird, quirky bike things all over the city. I was also noticing it was such an easy place to bike around since it’s flat and it’s always nice outside. I’m not exactly a “real cyclist.” I don’t have a nice bike or special clothing or anything like that. But the area is ripe for more cyclists, even casual ones.
I’m making more bike-themed art thanks to receiving a small grant from Knight Foundation. They support art and other community projects in San Jose. I had some greeting cards with bikes on them for sale in Japantown, and they saw my work there and asked me to do more bicycle-themed art for the city. Now my War Admiral Press work is stuff that I just enjoy doing, while my new project, Bike City: San Jose, is where I want to make cool art for the city.
War Admiral Press | waradmiralpress.com | Instagram waradmiralpress