There is something magical about seeing someone succeed at the exact thing they were meant to do. Artist Lisa Hanawalt is living that magic. Exhibit A: When Lisa was ten years old, she wrote in an essay for school, "I want to be famous for drawing horses someday." Cut to 22 years later, and Lisa's done just that. Her penchant for drawing anthropomorphic animals, horses especially, led to the creation of BoJack Horseman, one of the most innovative shows around . But even before BoJack, Lisa was bringing her unique artistic sensibilities to websites like the Hairpin and magazines like Lucky Peach and The Believer.
And this month Lisa's releasing her second book with Drawn & Quarterly, the excellently titled Hot Dog Taste Test. It is truly a treat for the senses. Lisa's world is weird and wonderful. It includes birds that have butts and cooters; weird foods that you wish you could eat in real life, like slices of ham worn like a bonnet or an "apple dipped in melted apple Jolly Rancher" (is this not the ultimate candied apple?!); and an overall vibe that makes you wish Lisa were your best friend and you could go swimming with otters together. Lisa and I talked on the phone about her career path, New York versus LA, and which character from Friends is the worst.
Laia Garcia: When did you first get into comics?
Lisa Hanawalt: I've always been into comics. I grew up reading the Sunday funnies. Me and my dad would read them together. My parents had comic books lying around. I was recently going through some old childhood artwork, and I was making comics when I was six, seven years old.
LG: You studied art and originally wanted to be more of a traditional artist. Did you make a conscious decision to choose comics, or did it just happen naturally?
LH: I didn't really have a plan. I thought, maybe because I was making large paintings in college, that I would continue to do that, but it just didn't seem practical. After I graduated, I got a secretary job that I worked at for a few years, and I was doing a web comic with my friend. Then I started making my own comic because it was what I was interested in doing, how I wanted to express myself. Then I happened to build a career on that; I started getting illustration jobs based on my comics. I started doing comics for Vice Magazine, and there was this paper called Arthur Magazine that I had a monthly strip in. Then I started doing comics for The Believer. It just kind of built from there.
LG: At what point did you decide to quit your job and devote yourself full-time to your art?
LH: I'd made this mini-comic, I had a publisher interested in doing some comics with me, and I went to Comic-Con. My boss was really unhappy about that, even though he paid me under the table and it wasn't even like I was a real employee. He still was really mad that I warned him three months in advance that I was going to Comic-Con for a week, so I was like, "You know what? I've got to quit this job, because it's holding me back at this point." Even though I did learn a lot about running a business when I was working for him.
I saved up before I quit, then I celebrated by going to New York for a week to stay with my friend Raphael [Bob-Waksberg, creator of BoJack Horseman ]. That's when I met my boyfriend, Adam, because he was roommates with Raphael. I fell in love with him, and then six months later, I moved to New York.