Dani Knight is the small but mighty force behind hundreds of our holiday card and gift designs each year. As the sole illustrator for Walgreens-exclusive Photo Cards and Gifts, she shares her unique talent through her hand-drawn and water-colored designs, which you can personalize with your own photos and pick up the same day. We sat down with Dani to get an inside look at her artistic approach, holiday favorites, and sending season’s greetings with good ol’ pen and ink.
When did you start drawing?
I started drawing as early as I can remember—pretty much as soon as I could hold a crayon. That's what I wanted to do with my free time and with my friends. Both my mom and my grandmother are artists so it was always part of my childhood and growing up.
How does it feel to get to draw for your job?
Drawing for a living is really my dream job. It feels so surreal that that's what I get to wake up and do every day. I always wanted to be an artist, even when I was a child, so I feel like I'm living out my childhood dreams.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that I get to be creative every day. I love that you can start out with this blank piece of paper, just a 5x7 card, and that can really become so many things. I do also love knowing that the items my illustrations are going on are things that matter in the world—they're expressions of friendship and care, and love for your family. So that feels really good to me.
Can you share your artistic process in creating a card design?
My process always starts with research—gathering inspiration, creating a mood board of colors and textures, and even other illustrations that inspire me. I’ll even draw from things like interior design and fashion design, and then pull together what the mood is from those images to create a card design that matches that feeling.
I think when people are choosing a card or a gift, they have a person in mind that they want to send it to. It's important to me to capture a feeling because they’re sending a message—a thought that they care about someone else. I want to convey that same sense of care in my designs.
What is your favorite part of the process in creating a card?
Once that planning phase is finished and I just get to strictly do the artwork. I could do that all day! It feels really natural to me just to be painting or drawing or doing lettering. I can get into this flow where I'm not as conscious of time—I feel like that's when most of my joy is put into the work.
Tell us about creating the Comfort and Joy design we’re featuring today.
The Comfort and Joy design was inspired by the classic Christmas carol. And just that thought of those two words . . . they're kind of dissimilar. “Comfort,” to me, is quiet and cozy. It invokes a lot of my favorite things about the season—I'm kind of a homebody at heart so I like to stay home and be warm! But “joy” is more emotional and celebratory. Those two sentiments capture my favorite things about the holidays: you're around people you care about and who care about you, but it's also a time of celebration.
In taking the ideas of “comfort” and “joy” and then abstracting it down into something that makes sense on a card and also looks pretty on a card, I started thinking about the different winter botanicals, greenery, holly berries—that always gives me a sense of the holidays. So, I have the photo as the center because that's really what's being shared—your memories, your family—and this botanical, wintery wreath that surrounds it. It’s one of my favorite designs because I actually did water color all of the botanical elements. Water color is my favorite medium to use.
In general, what mediums do you use?
I use a bunch of different tools in creating art. My favorite is watercolor but I also use wash, I'll use pencil. Everything starts with a pencil sketch and gets built out from there. Painting is where I feel the most at home and the most comfortable, and where I get the most joy. But I also create templates that are a little bit more modern, more digitally created.
Do you prefer to use text type or hand lettering?
I love that with hand-lettering, there's imperfection. If there are two As in a word, you can see that they don't look exactly the same. It's a way of seeing that someone actually painted this and they're not a machine or a robot. I like anything where you can see the artist's hand involved.
People tend to send things through the mail around this time of year. What makes that special?
We live in an increasingly digital world. We're doing more and more with our screens, and in a lot of ways that makes our lives a lot easier. But I do think there's something really special about receiving something you can hold in your hands. There's excitement in opening it, and it's fun to send it as well. I love it when I get stuff in the mail!
When you're sending a card, especially at the holidays, it's a time to reconnect with people. You're sharing something about your family and you might be sending it to people that you see every day, but it could also be people that live on the other side of the country and don't get to be a part of your everyday life. I think there's something really special in that. And to send a card that has a hand illustration in it is another layer of that care.
What do you love the most about the holidays?
I love Christmas music! I live in Chicago, and I love living in a place with seasons. The city gets dressed up for the holidays. I do listen to Christmas music from Thanksgiving up through the New Year. I love to be with family. I love eating. There's a lot that I really like about the holidays.
See more of Dani’s designs and create your own personalized holiday Photo Card!