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Interview

Lucy Knisley p3

Comics artist Lucy Knisley talks about color, lettering, endings, Relish and Oscar Wilde…

READERSVOICE.COM: I like the lettering in comics like Stop Paying Attention. Is this just your normal handwriting or is it a particular font you’ve learned, say at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies, and what are some good books on lettering or ways to learn lettering in your view?

LUCY KNISLEY: My lettering is a bit of a cheat. I like the look of hand-lettering, but I’m annoyed by lettering guides and blue-pencil edits. I get so irritated by having to clean up the spacing and mistakes in hand-lettered comics, so I came up with the idea of using a computer font that resembles my own lettering to do the text layout in my comics, and then tracing over every letter by hand, giving it perfectly spaced (and spell-checked) hand-drawn letters. It’s what I’ve found that works for me, and it actually has improved my freestyle lettering quite a lot! Like when I was a kid and I used to trace comics on tracing paper to practice drawing, I think it really improves your hand-lettering to trace good lettering.

RV: Your comics always have good endings. What are the best ways to come up with a snappy ending on comics stories?

LK: Endings are so important– they can wrap up the whole meaning you’re trying to get across. I always try to write the whole comic out, and edit out unnecessary parts from the middle. I only recently realized that frequently I use a little trick I scoffed off once during a writing class: to look at your writing as percussion, and end on a final down-beat. It seems to improve reading rhythm, and gives the reader a little more of a voice to what they read.

RV: The color in your color comics is striking. Do you use color theory learned in art colleges, or do you have a natural understanding of which colors work well with others?

LK: I’ve taken a lot of color theory over the years, but I very rarely consciously use it in my comics. I think technical classes like “life drawing” and “materials and techniques” tend to burrow deep in and become part of your process, whether you are aware of it or not. I love color and texture, and I try to make a comic that looks beautiful and unique. Color is important to me and to what makes my comic satisfying for me to look at, so I spend a lot of time working on it.

RV: The Ukulele Lady puppet video was strangely hypnotic. What sorts of puppet shows and activities have you been to or been involved in of late.

LK: I’m more focused on working on travelogues and developing my comics at the moment. I’ve only been in New York for a year, but before that I lived with a crafter (my friend Nora), who made us a lot of great costumes, and collaborated on goofy puppet and music stuff (you can see it all on our conjoined blog, theburrowstudio.blogspot.com). I like having partners-in-crime for those things, these days. I still make music, and I love to make paper puppets, but sadly my apartment is too tiny these days to do much fabric puppet construction.

RV: What are some of your plans?

LK: Relish, my book from First Second Publishing, comes out in April. It’s a food memoir, about growing up with a chef mother in the 90s food boom in New York. I’m really excited about this book– it’s a full-color collection of stories, recipes and embarrassing coming-of-age tales. I’ll also be coming out with a lot more travel comics soon, and will hopefully get to collect them in a book along with my Tanzania Travelogue.
I’m going to the UK in November, where I’ll hopefully get to write my Oscar Wilde book, and once all the travel stuff cools off for a bit, I have a couple more autobio and fiction comic projects I’ve been wanting to work on. It’s a good time to draw. There’s a lot of cool stuff I want to make.

– Visit lucyknisley.com for lots of comics.
– copyright Simon Sandall.