I don’t remember how I found Lucy Knisley’s art journal. As soon as I saw it, though, I knew I needed to read more of her work.
Her style is so cool. She does slice-of-life material for the most part, punctuated with unique pop culture references, but in a lovely, clear line style with a vibrant sense of color.
Radiator Days contains two years’ worth of her comic strips, over 300 pages of sketches, observations, comic journals, and stories. Although the presentation is bare bones — the self-published book doesn’t even have a table of contents, nor does it carry its publisher name anywhere, and pieces are simply separated by blank pages — the content is worth reading.
Unfortunately, it’s all black and white. That’s not a bad thing, since her work reads well regardless, but I miss the lovely palettes she uses online. You can also tell some of the pieces are early work, where she’s processing her influences, but the range of content is attractive in itself. The book opens with a 24-hour comic that encapsulates her lack of focus (and thus diverse subjects) as well as her changing art styles. How can you not like a book that has the author in charming hat drinking Tang with Oscar Wilde on page 2?
She’s an art school student, like many young comic creators, but her work uses that setting as grounding, not as its only subject matter. Instead, her scholarly status sends her thinking about diversions, fear of the future, the search for emotional security, creative blockage, and the need for sleep, among other things. I could relate, and I felt like I knew better who she was, although I don’t know her, after reading. And that was only the first “chapter” of this thorough collection.
Let’s talk more about her influences. When she uses a brush, I’m reminded of Craig Thompson or Hope Larson. Pen? More Jen Sorensen. Occasionally a little Alison Bechdel. There’s probably many more I’m missing — the point is, these are accomplished artists, and Knisley is firmly in their league. Her layouts are simple while the panels are creative yet easy to read. Plus, she’s clearly got an active, wide-ranging mind, and it’s truly a pleasure to see so much intelligence on the page, combined with fearless self-revelation.
The book is worth it to me just to own a copy of the bookstore love story, in which a girl working at a used bookstore that’s closing starts releasing the books, one at a time, to good homes or those who need them. If I can figure out how to scan it without damaging the spine, I’m also copying the four-panel illustration of a girl surfing a huge pile of books until they overwhelm her; it would be perfect to hang over my bookcase stuffed with review copies to read. There’s even a Batman guest appearance, where he wears a dandelion chain, in a strip about the importance of distraction.
See much more of her work at Lucy Knisley’s website.