A book tells a story with words, and a sketch or painting depicts a story with pictures. A comic book tells a story with words and pictures. Lucy Knisley (pronounced “nigh-slee”) of Evanston creates comics for which she writes the story, designs the images, and colors the pages. She creates complete visual narratives ready for publication.
His books, or graphic novels, are considered mid-level and young adult fiction by publishers and target readers ages 8 to 18.
His first seven published books were fictionalized memoirs of his own childhood.
To date, Knisley has published over 15 comic books. She also does other professional illustration work, speaks at Comic Con as well as other conventions, and works with young adult school groups.
Most of his work is done in his home studio and on his porch. I know this scenario well because, in full disclosure, I met Knisley when she and her husband bought my house.
The third floor studio is a large west facing room with lots of light and a walk-in closet. Knisley has a workbench used for painting and crafts, shelves full of her books and books authored by colleagues she admires, and a closet full of supplies. She writes and draws in an ergonomic chair, properly adjusted with an attached desk surface.
Her art tools include an iPad where she scripts the stories in Microsoft Word. She uses Blackwing pencils and plain paper to sketch scenes and then colors the work digitally or with watercolor ink.
Knisley usually works on many stories at once. She says she keeps “several plates turning” so she can continually move between publisher demands and illustrations. She normally completes one book a year, but she missed daycare during COVID-19 and had to extend her publishing schedule.
Your latest comic book, apple crush, is the second in the Peapod Farm series. It was released this year and is available in many book sources The first in the series, stepping stones, was on the New York Times bestseller list. Recently, at a book signing at Booked, a local children’s bookstore on Main Street, the books sold out quickly, but now they have more in stock.
Knisley starts creating her art after taking her son to school. Working hours are from 9 am to 3:30 pm, but at that time she also goes up by bicycle, where she contemplates her projects.
To start a comic book, she has an initial conversation with her agent who she has worked with for over 15 years. This is a time to debate the next project that will eventually lead to another book proposal for a publisher.
If accepted – which has become more likely now that the previous books have sold successfully – it’s time to start working with an editor on a story line, which is like a script for a play, showing what the characters are going to say. and indicating what they are going to do. The script is loose at this point and will develop in detail as Knisley sketches and defines it.
With the plot established, Knisley now starts with the visuals from the comics. She organizes each page into panels that are the little boxes that organize each page of comics.
Any page can have 1 to 9 panels. Five or more is typical and a one-panel or full-page panel is called a “home page”.
On each panel, as needed, Knisley places word balloons where the script will be added, which helps her establish a rhythm for the story.
Then she draws the scenes and words in each panel, chapter by chapter. At this stage, she mainly focuses on getting every aspect of the story perfect.
No color added yet. This step can be done digitally, but she prefers to do it manually using pencil and paper. However, when done digitally, it’s easier to send to your publisher. It’s a tradeoff that Knisley decides for each job.
When satisfied with a chapter, she sends an online copy to her editor, and the editor proceeds to edit it. Once they fully agree on the details of a chapter, it’s time to “paint” and color. Knisley goes through all the pencil lines with an ink pen, and then the book is colored.
Knisley says that in the past she has completed the coloring herself, usually with watercolor, but she knows she is a slow colorist, and the publisher’s demand for new work is high. So she recently hired a wonderful colorist who can color the comics using the color palette Knisley selects.
Upon completion of all chapters, all pages of the book are sent to the publisher and there is a wait time before the book is published. During the wait, the cover is designed and all interstitial pages – not the story content – are completed.
Knisley says she’s always wanted to be an author and artist, so her work fits her perfectly. Since she moved to Evanston, she feels lucky and surprised to meet many other female comics artists who live here, and that “Evanston is a great comic book city.”
To see his books, you can visit the Evanston Public Library. Or her website at www.stoppayingattention.com, where you can learn more about her and buy her comics. Her Instagram is @lucyknisley