Three years ago I stumbled across Lucy Knisley’s work on drawn.ca and fell in love. The comics she made were so whimsical and relateable. I felt like she was drawing about the things we all go through like getting older, figuring out who you are and where you fit in with the world, breakups, makeups, friends, food and traveling. She often reflects her childhood memories while also looking ahead to the future, which is an essential step for anyone young or old. Lucy recently moved back to New York and I was able to grab a drink with her to catch up on what she has been up to.
Untapped: Welcome back to New York!
Lucy: Thanks! The funny thing is I am living a block away from where my parents lived in the 70’s. I found a picture of them walking down the street and I was like hey, that’s my street.
Untapped: When did you know you wanted to become a cartoonist? Was there anything that influenced you?
Lucy: I always loved reading comics. Archie was my favorite, but I also liked TinTin and Calvin & Hobbes. I even wrote and drew an Archie fan comic when I was about eight or nine. It was my vision of how the love triangle should have been resolved, and involved Betty hiring Jughead to kill Archie, giving Veronica lard chocolates, and marrying Midge (Moose’s girlfriend).
But I wasn’t serious about being a cartoonist until college. I was at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and I met Hope Larson. At the time I had a comic in the school newspaper, and she was like ooo another lady comic artist! So she introduced me around to other professional comics and that’s when I realized I could probably really do this.
Untapped: So what do you miss about living in Chicago?
Lucy: Hot Doug’s. They make these amazing artisanal hotdogs…also Molly’s Cupcakes. But actually, they moved with me to New York City! And I am pretty sure the same guy is behind the counter. I’m just waiting for him to recognize me! But maybe he thinks I followed them. Either way it’s the same guy or his twin brother.
Untapped: Speaking of food, tell us about your upcoming book, Relish?
Lucy: A lot of my first memories revolve around food, which is the crux of what Relish is all about. If there’s anything worth dwelling on in terms of memories of New York, it’s the ones of really good food! Also there are a lot of memories with my mom. She worked at the first Dean and Deluca. So I have a lot of memories hanging out in the kitchens and coloring on the floor while she cooked or arranged the food displays.
Untapped: How is Relish coming along?
Lucy: Well it is almost done except for the cover. It is actually one of the hardest parts. You have to work with editors and designers to come up with a final design. I just sent out requests for cover blurbs this week. It’s probably another one of the hardest parts! It’s like, “Um hi, say nice things about me publicly!”
Untapped: The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival (MOCCA) is this weekend!
Lucy: Yes! I’m looking forward to it, I’ll have my usual table where I’ll be selling some books, posters, and doing mini custom watercolor drawings.
Untapped: What is the weirdest request you ever had for a custom mini watercolor drawing?
Lucy: I thought about this drawing the other day actually. This guy came up and asked if I could draw a bear with seven stars. He didn’t elaborate any further. So I drew it, and he seemed happy! And oh, there is this guy who walks around conventions asking everyone to draw this weird little alien creature toy. I have easily drawn it three times over the years. And he’s at a whole bunch of different conventions too. Weird.
Untapped: Drink and Draw like a Lady is the friday night before MOCCA! How did you start that event?
Lucy: Five years ago Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson and myself decided to get together on the sunday of the MOCCA convention for brunch. We talked about being women in the comic world. I had just signed my contract on French Milk at the time and was looking for advice. Hope liked the opportunity to just talk with women about the biz, so she decided we should open it up and make it a bigger thing. The next year was really the first Drink and Draw Like a Lady event. It was at Madame X, a bar downtown. It was a dark and bar-ry venture, and there was a speed dating event upstairs so we were constantly shooing away the annoying men looking for a date. It wasn’t an ideal location. The second year I set up the event myself, Hope and Raina were busy. I moved the event to 192 Books where my dad is a manager. This year it is at 192 Books again on Friday, April 27th at 7pm. Next year I think we will have to find a new venue, it’s getting so big!
Untapped: Your comics are mostly autobiographical. I know you choose to put your life out there for anyone to read about. But was it harder than usual with your breakup comic, Salvaged Parts?
Lucy: Drawing the comic was way easier than going through the breakup. At first I felt like I needed to explain to my readers what had happened for continuity’s sake, but then [I decided] I should do this for myself. It was great. It gave me an opportunity to organize and share my thoughts and feelings about what happened, which is one of my favorite things about making comics. It’s a little like free therapy! The readers were very supportive and felt very connected to me and my situation because many of them had gone through similar things.
For the most part when I draw my comics I try to maintain a barrier between myself and my character. I am not my comic. But Salvaged Parts was definitely closer to home.
Untapped: You are a full-time cartoonist, so how do you stay inspired?
Lucy: I work hard but I take breaks when I can’t possibly work anymore. Anyone who says they are highly productive all the time is lying. Which is why I don’t feel too guilty when I spend a long amount of time watching Doctor Who. It’s what I need to recover and move along.
Lucy: Well it was only supposed to be 30 pages, but it is now at 100, and I’m watercoloring all the pages. It was a very interesting trip to say the least. It was also a very unusual place for me to be. 10 days on a ship with 4700 other people in this weird artificial environment where everyone likes to sit around drinking Mai Tais all day. I really want to finish the comic so I can stop reliving the trip.
Untapped: What is your first NYC memory?
Lucy: You know those bottle-based sidewalks? Well near my nursery school I’d walk up one and then slide down those metal basement hutches. I did this every day. Another time there was this mangey stray cat near our apartment; I walked up to it to pet it said “I love you”. It bit my hand so deeply that I still have a scar. I still love cats. Even that one.
You can find more of Lucy’s work here:
Prints on Society6 and on Big Cartel
Illustrated presentation on the graphic travelogue; why Lucy likes them, and some information on how to make your own.
Lucy will also be at the MOCCA Festival on Saturday, stop by and say hi!
Saturday April 28th & Sunday April 29th
At the Lexington Avenue Armory
68 Lexington Avenue (Between 25th and 26th Streets)
Pre-sale tickets available now for $12 or $18 at the door.
For more information and list of exhibitors visit: moccafest.org