Interview: Lisa Hanawalt Pt. 2 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews


In this second part of our interview with the I Want You cartoonist, we discuss Lisa Hanawalt’s Webcomics training, parental support, and her formative years as a horse.

[Part One]

Do your parents see your work at all?

Yeah. they love it. I think they went through a little period of being kind of disturbed by it, but now they love it. They sent copies of one to all of my relatives–all of them. Ones who shouldn’t read it.

How would most of them take it?

Most of them are pretty cool, but some of them didn’t know what to think of it. But still, I’m so lucky that they’re so supportive. My mom helped me edit it. They’re incredibly supportive. Thank god.

It looks like you’re trying out a different style in every single story.

Yeah, yeah. At first I was worried that it would be confusing to the reader, but Alvin [Buenaventure] convinced me that it would be good.

Confusing in that the reader wouldn’t understand that it was the same person doing it?

Maybe. Or maybe it would look like I couldn’t decide. But when I think of a story or a list, I often immediately decide which method would be better—the line art or the watercolors.

If I point to a story, can you tell me why you chose that style?

For this one [points to a page], I thought watercolor would be nice because it was kind of dreamlike and I can get those really dark tones and values. The animal stories are fun when they’re really realistic but have this weird, spare coloring book look to it.

They’re like paper dolls almost.

Yeah. And sometimes I combine a lot of different styles. It helps me not get bored. I like to go back and forth a lot.

Is this work for you? Are you a full-time cartoonist?

I am. I do a lot of illustration. Cartooning isn’t the most lucrative job out there.

For magazines and Website and the like?

Yeah, yeah. Right now I’m doing an album cover for a friends. And I’ll probably make some tote bags to sell. If I can just keep pulling in from different sources…

Well, you’re in Brooklyn, right?

Yeah [laughs].

That can’t be easy to live in New York as an artist.

It’s actually cheaper than in LA. I was living with three roommates for a while. Just last week I moved in with my boyfriend. It’s not that bad. I definitely need help from my parents, now and then. I’m not completely independent yet. I’m lucky that they offer that help.

How often are you putting out books?

The second one was finished quite a while ago. It was ready last spring. But I’m trying to figure out who’s gonna print it. But once I start working on something, it happens pretty fast. The last book was made over a period of three months, when I had a job and was moving. To some people that’s fast and to some that’s slow…

You have a new one coming out.

Hopefully for APE.

It’s the same format as the last one?

Yeah. It should be a little larger—44 pages, I think. And then, after that, I’m not sure what I want to do. I’ve been working on some pages, trying to figure out if I want to do another small thing or try to make a book book.

The stories in all of these are pretty short.

Yeah, they are.

Would you work on a larger collection of short pieces or one large story?

I’m thinking of humor books that a certain angle, like making fun of how-to books, or something. But I’m not sure yet.

Maybe a science book.


Have you ever considered collaborating with your parents?

[Laughs]. No, their ideas for comics are terrible. I drew one for my dad for Christmas. His idea was one panel that said “pant” and had a dog panting and one panel that said “pants” and had a pair of pants.

There’s certainly the seed of an idea there.


Is that something their interested in doing, as members of the scientific community?

Yeah [laughs].

Are they living vicariously through you a little bit?

Nah. No, they don’t really want to do it. And I’m not so into collaborating, for the most part. I did it for two years with my friend. It was really fun, but it kind of made me want to work alone.

What was the series?

It was called Tip Me Over, Pour Me Out. It was his life. It was about him and his trouble with ladies. It was sort of a very traditional comic.

That doesn’t really sound up your alley.

I drew it really weird. If you look at it, the backgrounds start getting more and more crazy.

Were you getting bored drawing the same stuff, over and over again?

I like the challenge of trying to make it interesting to me. I really liked working with him. He’s my best friend from high school. I would just try to draw things in the background that would crack him up. But then it became very time consuming.

It was good training though. I learned to make comics that way.

Were you always an arty kid? Were you a science kid at all, because of the influence in the house?

I was an indoor kid, yeah. I was definitely artsy. I liked science and art and pretending that I was an animal.

Pretending you were an animal? What did that entail?

I was the horse girl. You know the horse girl? Crawling around on all fours at all times. There was one girl who was more horsey than me and I thought she was a complete freak. But I was really freakish [laughs].

This is in school?

Yeah, yeah! I used to have calluses on my knees and holes in all of my pants from crawling around on all fours. I really thought I was an animal at one time and that if I really believed hard enough, I would be one.

I thought the traditional girl horse fantasy was riding horses.

I did ride horses, too.

Was that weird for you as a horse to ride another horse?

[Laughs] I don’t know… I thought, ‘I could marry a horse. I love them so much.’

When did you snap out of it and realize that you were, in fact, a person?

My brother sat me down and had a talk with me. He said, you’re going into middle school and you need to not do this anymore, because you’re going to embarrass me and yourself, and you’re not going to be popular.

So, like 11, 12.

Yeah. I had to snap out of it.

But you’re still obviously fascinated with animals.

Yeah, definitely.

Horses specifically?

Yeah, yeah. And I like cats, too, because the features on their face are oriented in such a human way, so they have this very uncanny look to them.

They’re sort of staring off into nothing.

Yeah. I like the one in the front that’s staring out at you.

It’s interesting that you like drawing them because it’s sort of like drawing a person. Why wouldn’t you just draw a person?

I don’t know. I draw people sometimes, but it became easier to project the emotions that I waned to explore onto these animals.

We’re looking at this cat that’s sort of staring off into the distance. What’s the emotion you wanted to explore?

I don’t know he’s filling out a captcha…there’s a butt… This was just a painting that I made. Alvin said that it had to be in the book. But a lot of the stories with animals are still sort of autobiographical. He-Horse and She-Moose are sort of me and…

Is it too close to home if you’re drawing yourself?

Yeah. Sometimes I’ll draw myself, though. The “Sex Bug” story has me in it, but I’m more comfortable drawing myself as an animal.

Do you still sort of view yourself as one, then?

Not literally. But it’s fun to draw it that way.

Are you a specific animal in the comics?

I draw myself as a horse sometimes and a moose sometimes. They’re both sort of equine. I like the moose because she’s not as elegant as the horse. Moose have that big bulbous nose. I imagine it would be sort of awkward.

[Continued in Part Three]

–Brian Heater