Creature Features

Artist Lisa Hanawalt turns animals and daily actions into the fantastical and freaky

September 12, 2013

Lisa Hanawalt, illustrator and comic artist, looking deceptively normal.

What do dogs want? In the mind of Lisa Hanawalt, they yearn for salt licks in the shape of human legs and houses made of old fish.

The Brooklyn illustrator and comic-book artist’s ideas always “start with something that happened in the real world,” says Hanawalt, who will appear at Bethesda’s Small Press Expo this weekend. “When I draw, I’ll start to riff on simple ideas or interactions I’ve had.”

Sometimes, that’s reading Martha Stewart Living, which led to Hanawalt’s series “How We Can Tell Martha Stewart’s Drunk.” (Giveaways: “Bows tied in the toilet paper” or “biscotti in a big thing of vodka.”)

Those pieces are compiled in Hanawalt’s new book, “My Dirty Dumb Eyes,” which is also full of the discomforting, entrancing half animal, half people she’s made her trademark. “When I was about 8, I drew myself as a cat person because, in my head, it was the coolest thing that could happen,” she says.

Two of her previous mini-comics, “Stay Away From Other People” and “I Want You #1,” both from 2009, won the prestigious Ignatz Award, putting her in the company of comics giants. She’s also done work for The New York Times, Vanity Fair and The Hairpin, which publishes her illustrated film reviews. (Her viral-hit review of “War Horse” is funnier than anything made solely of words could ever be.)

Generally, though, the UCLA-trained Hanawalt, age “medium-young,” publishes work directly to her website, lisahanawalt.com. “Posting online gets me seen by art directors,” she says. “I wouldn’t advise someone else to try this approach, though, because the pay is infrequent and random.”

As for profitable gigs, Hanawalt contributes to Random House’s Hazlitt site and recently illustrated “Benny’s Brigade,” a children’s book that follows the adventures of a walrus and some slugs.

Her most recent project, started after Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan popped into her brain during procrastination ennui, can be seen on her Instagram account, lisadraws. Corporate logos pair up with off-color slogans: “Subway: Smell Bread”; Chevrolet: Get Your Laws Off My Truck Nutz”; “McDonald’s: I Love Something. Is This It?”

As with Hanawalt’s other works, the doodles riff on everyday interactions — in this case, ones she felt she had little control over.

“I was angry that a slogan would be so embedded,” she says, “so this is getting out frustration about that. And McDonald’s is following me on Twitter!”


Hanawalt’s dogs lust for tennis-ball brides and long to be made of rubber bands.

Hanawalt at SPX: Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Hanawalt will be on a “performative panel” with cartoonist R. Sikoryak, Sam Henderson (“The Magic Whistle”), Michael Kupperman (“Tales Designed to Thrizzle”), Anders Nilsen (“Rage of Poseidon”) and others.

Also at the Small Press Expo

Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell: “March: Book One”
Sat., 1-2 p.m. | Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., marks the publication of the first installment of a graphic novel trilogy documenting his life and work as a leader in the civil rights movement. He will appear with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell.

Peter Bagge: Life After “Hate”
Sat., 2-3 p.m. | Peter Bagge’s ’90s cult comic “Hate” chronicled the life and times of Buddy Bradley and his distasteful-but-lovable band of friends and idiots. His latest work, the incredibly researched and executed graphic novel “Woman Rebel,” is a biography of feminist pioneer and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

Small Press Expo, Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda; Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m., $10-$15. (White Flint)
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Owner, Black Cat
Shauna Miller · September 12, 2013