In the comics of Greenpoint artist Lisa Hanawalt, familiar things get very odd, very fast. The award-winning artist, who's been published in The New York Times, The Believer, VICE, and Vanity Fair (to name a few) draws straight from her own dark Id, yet manages to turn subjects that could be icky into whimsical nonsense that can't help but confuse and delight. In her disturbingly detailed pages, the secret lives of dogs and celebrity chefs are revealed. Dirty daydreams involve miniaturizing the surfing bank robbers from Point Break. Anna Wintour gives birth to fanciful birds. If you sex a lady just right, she might turn into a velociraptor.
Two years in the making, her new book My Dumb Dirty Eyes is released by indie comics powerhouse Drawn & Quarterly next Monday. There's a book launch for it at 7PM tonight at the Power House Arena in DUMBO. Ahead of all this excitement, we talked to Hanawalt about her book, her illustration career, her dirty mind, and the fetish communities just hankering for new drawings of sexy lizard ladies.
The L Magazine: When you are doing commercial illustration for the New York Times or Business Week, is it weird trying to find the line of what it is just absurd enough for that context? Can you tell when something starts to get too unsettling?
Lisa Hanawalt: I think art directors like me because I know what’s appropriate but I’ll push it just a little bit. Like, in the New York Times I had a comic about Thanksgiving and it had kid's drawn turkeys. Like a hand turkey, a foot turkey, and then a “bottom turkey.” I originally wrote “butt turkey” and they said, “That’s just a tiny bit too blunt, so let’s switch it to bottom.” I actually think that’s funnier.
One thing about the book that was interesting was how big of a range in styles there are from super detailed to really sketchy. How do you decide which technique is best to get a joke or an idea across?
I think in general I’ve just been moving slowly to looser drawings. I’m caring less about seeming like a really good drawer. It’s less important to me now that I can really draw a car well. Now, I’m just like, you know it’s a car and maybe it’s funny because it’s so bad. I don’t care.
But something like the piece in the book where animals wear elaborate, ridiculous hats? Does something like that need detailed rendering to sell the absurdity of it?
That one is so silly that if the drawing was also silly, it’s almost like you wouldn’t want to pay attention to it. I wanted it to be almost like a scientific illustration. Like some person who studies animals carefully drew this so there’d be a record of it.