Craft/Work Interview with New York Times best selling author, Lucy Knisley!
Hi there! Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? What’s you’re artistic history? What kind of work do you do? What are your main sources of inspirations?
I’m Lucy Knisley. I’m a comic artist and writer working out of Chicago and New York. I mainly focus on true stories about my life and food and travel. I have two published graphic novels, a webcomic, and numerous publications in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago followed by the Center for Cartoon Studies for my MFA.
Do you consider yourself an Artist or a Crafter? Why? (If you consider yourself something else entirely, what? And why?)
Comics are a nice intersection between art and craft, with a side of storytelling. These days, the comic is frequently seen as an internet product, very separate from its creator. I try to make comics that create a bond between myself and the reader through shared experience or truth, and I think that’s something that “craft” has always done— created that bond. “Craft” is typically an item created to fulfill a practical purpose, and I think comics bridge that gap well— it’s not art on the wall to be observed, it’s art on a page to be read and absorbed as part of a story. While I consider comic art to be “art,” I also consider it a “craft;” commercial and practiced— each panel’s regularity and each character’s consistency an effort towards a larger whole. I think it’s dangerous to apply any hierarchy to the act of making, and terms like “art” and “craft” tend to draw value systems for some who hear such terms. I know plenty of comics artists who don’t consider comics making to be art or craft, but a thing unto itself. Comics have answered so many questions and needs for me that I can’t help but think it is everything all at once; art, craft, play, work, philosophy and guilty pleasure.
Do questions/conundrums around art and craft come up during your studio practice? If so, in what way?
I struggle with the digitally pervasive concept of the divorce between the artist and the art. The internet has changed the way that we conceptualize images, music, video— removed the human element from it. I will always cling to my ability to make comics that have a strong connection to me and between myself and the reader. Not just for practical (monetary) purposes of copyright retention, but because it’s terrifying and disappointing to see how people alter their perception of other people’s work when a computer comes between themselves and the world. I want to make sure that the hand is viewed in my work— that it is seen as a thing created by a human— crafted into existence, rather than springing forth from the digital world wholly formed without human interference. That human connection is something that I feel is strongly represented in crafting; to look at an object and to think of the person who created it.
Have you ever had a hard time finding an audience for your work because it wasn’t clearly “art” or “craft”?
I’m lucky that comics are undergoing a revolutionary period of diversity in form, medium, readership and creatorship. It’s still an “indie” community, but I’ve been lucky enough to have great reader support. At times it can be frustrating when people don’t see comics as I do; a perfect harmony of words and images— the natural state of human storytelling (cave paintings were graphic narrative, after all). Social stigma will always be a part of comics history. That “comics are for kids” or “comics are a low literary/art form” or “I don’t read comics” thing will always exist, but I’m happy to say that for many people, that’s changing.
If selling your work is something that is integral to your artistic process, can you share with us a little bit about how you calculate pricing?
I’m a big fan of printed matter, but digital content is important these days. I keep a regular online presence to support my print sales of my books (6 GNs in print). I’ve been experimenting with digital sales of comics that are too short for a big print run (30-60 pages), and succeeding somewhat. There’s essentially no overhead for those— no print costs or shipping costs. The infrastructure of the comics industry provides a number of conventions that allow me to make a good profit annually, but require a lot of travel and work. I split my publication between major publishers and self-publishing, which is a nice balance. Practically, you make more money just printing it yourself, but there’s a lot of hustle and work and trips to the post office in self pub. With a publisher, I can rely on them to print, store, ship, edit, etc, and focus on making the actual comic, so it’s good that I can do both. It’s all a juggling balance between art, craft, writing, and salesmanship.
Thanks for insightful answers, Lucy! You can check out Lucy’s work at her website and tumblr. Lucy also designed our amazing logo! For which she should be praised a thousand times for it is glorious to behold. We’re so lucky to have her on the Craft/Work team!
Are you an artist, crafter, maker or cultural worker who’d like to participate in our ongoing artist interview series? Get in touch! You can send us an ask or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Here’s an interview with me for the Craft/Work project! I also drew and animated their logo. I think this is going to be a great show, and is worthy of kickstartage.
When I was 17, I went to a pre-college art program where I had an AWFUL teacher in my illustration class. He used to sneer over my work and tell me that it was “more craft than art,” as if this was the ultimate dismissal. Whatever— that dude made ugly tape murals. Hierarchy in making seems sillier and sillier as I become more secure as a professional artist. Paint the shit out of those little clouds, Bob Ross. Yarn bomb the hell out of those streetlights, knit punks. Make what moves you, friends!