Illustration Takes A Fashionable Turn - An Interview With Kelsi Jo Silva (Phoenix Comic Fest 2018)

Written by Neil Greenaway

Kelsi Jo Silva at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018. (1)

Even though Kelsi Jo Silva has been working as a professional illustrator in Denver (my home town) since 2014, I had never had the pleasure of seeing her work before we met a few months ago at the 2018 Phoenix Comic Fest. A mutual friend had recommended her art to me, and he was right. I was taken in by the soft curves and the bold use of color.

Having already accrued an impressive list of credits (including illustrating three children’s books for Good Luck Black Cat Books), Kelsi Jo has set her sights on writing and illustrating her own creator-owned comics. She has two major comics projects in production and was able to take a few moments away from her busy convention table to speak with me about both of them.

Mermaids by Kelsi Jo Silva.

Neil Greenaway: Can you start us out by giving us just a brief overview of what your upcoming comic project will be?

Kelsi Jo Silva: I am working on several projects right now. I am working on one with a writer, Sid Mulholland. It has a lot of Greek mythology vibes or Greek philosophy vibes more so. It’s about a girl coming of age who finds out that she has the ability to alter reality, so that’s what I am working on with him right now. Then I have my own comic project, which is about a witch who has a curse that has been placed on her and now all her internal emotions show on the outside of her body in the form of things like blisters and bruises. The story will show how she is dealing with that internal conflict that has become now an external conflict.

NG: So, is that one going to be completely you? Art, Writing, Color, all that?

KJS: Yes

NG: Ok now when you do something like that all alone, are you going traditional or digital?

KJS: It’s going to be all digital.

NG: Do you work with traditional art at all?

KJS: I do traditional sketches but if I am going to do a finished piece it is going to be digital.

NG: Is it just easier to work with?

KJS: It’s easier to translate, it’s easier to work with clients, it’s all just easier. It’s all in one place and you don’t have to deal with the paper or spilling your ink on things.

Some of the art available from Kelsi Jo Silva at the 2018 Phoenix Comic Fest.

NG: Are you already working on both of these books (the Greek philosophy and the cursed witch)?

KJS: Yes

NG: Would you be putting these out traditionally when they are finished or would you look at a crowd-funding model? What is your distribution going to look like?

KJS: I know that Sid wants to look at publishers, so that’s probably what we are going to do as a team. For my own comic I’m not 100% sure how I want to do it. I know it’s important to me that it be in print at some point and I also know that it is going to be in some digital format.

NG: So, perhaps released first as a web comic?

KJS: I’m thinking about it. I am teetering on it. I haven’t quite settled. I know that Webtoons a really good location for it. I’m struggling with the idea of having that vertical format and also having it in a print format. So, the idea of taking my print pages - because that is more important to me - and turning them into a vertical scrolling format is daunting. (laughs) It’s a lot of work.

NG: If you were going to try and do it as a web comic, would you finish the book first and then release a page a week (or something like that)? Or would you try to release the pages as you finished them?

A one-page comic from Kelsi Jo Silva.

KJS: I think I would start with the first book and then release the pages one at a time and see where I’m at from there.

NG: And what kind of timeline do you have on these books? Or is it still completely theoretical?

KJS: For the pitch with Sid, I should be done with that by the end of the week. We are looking at publishers now and looking at putting together our pitch packet, so whether or not we get picked up is where that timeline is. For my own comic it’s kind of theoretical. I’m still in the process of designing and writing.

NG: How did you get your start in the art world? How did you get into working on comics?

KJS: I went to RMCAD so I have a degree in illustration. When I graduated I did a couple of children’s books, so I have 3 children’s books out right now, and I decided that I wanted to do something that’s a little more adult. I really like drawing fashion and clothes and you really don’t get a lot of that with children’s books. You draw a lot of animals and flowers - and that’s nice, but I like drawing fashionable young ladies.

NG: Can you tell me a little bit about the children's books that you've done?

KJS: I worked with an author - a lady named Niki Knaub who owns the Good Luck Black Cat publishing house, and we’ve done 3 books. They’re about a little black cat named Ela. We’ve got Ela Cat in the Jungle, which was our first book. Then we did Ela Cat at the Beach and then Ela Cat in the Mountains which is the one that I finished earlier this year.

Ela Cat In the Jungle - Written by Niki Knaub, Illustrated by Kelsi Jo Silva.

Ela Cat At the Beach - Written by Niki Knaub, Illustrated by Kelsi Jo Silva.

Ela Cat In the Mountains - Written by Niki Knaub, Illustrated by Kelsi Jo Silva.

NG: You said you wanted to work more with more fashionable things, have you done any fashion design or fashion illustration?

KJS: I have not done any fashion illustration but my mom has her degree in fashion design, so it’s kind of been a part of my life for my entire life.

NG: Was she in clothing design then?

Enamel Pins, Stickers, pencil cases & prints from Kelsi Jo Silva at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

KJS: She did yeah, she worked as a pattern maker for a really long time.

NG: growing up, did she teach you any of that? Did you pick anything up from her?

KJS: I think it has been an influence. I’ve done a lot of sewing, I know how to sew pretty well. Drawing clothes is just something that I have done. Like it’s just a part of it.

NG: With her having that background, is she pleased to see you moving forward artistically as well?

KJS: She is, yeah.

NG: That’s cool.

KJS: I’m very grateful for it because I don’t think a lot people have that. She has this attitude that if you do what you love, then success is going to follow you. She didn’t have that from her parents. She had tried to go to school for business at first, and it didn’t work out for her and she dropped out. Then she went back for fashion design and was top of her class. So, she has this attitude that’s like "you need to do what you love to do".

A print available from Kelsi Jo Silva.

NG: If these books are just still being worked on, your first comics, how long have you been doing the convention circuit?

KJS: My first convention was Denver Comic Con in 2014 and I only did the one that year. The following year I think I did 3 of them, but last year was when I started really diving into the convention circuit.

NG: Have you done Phoenix Comic Con before?

KJS: I did Phoenix last year, yeah.

NG: It seems a little slow this year.

KJS: I was up on the 3rd floor last year, so it’s been less slow than it was for me last year. I have heard that it is slow from a lot of the other vendors, but I don’t see it. I saw like half the amount of people when I was upstairs.

NG: You are having a good weekend here, then?

KJS: I am, yeah.

NG: Nice. That is good to hear. One more question for you before we close out, if people want to find more of you, or follow your work where would they go online?

KJS: They can find me at I am also on Instagram, twitter, Tumblr, & Facebook.

NG: Ok, thank you very much for your time

Kelsi Jo Silva at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018. (1)