Interview with Award-Winning Illustrator Lisa Brown
Get to know Lisa…
Lisa Brown is a New York Times bestselling illustrator, writer, and cartoonist. Her picture books for children include How to Be, Vampire Boy’s Good Night, and Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly. She illustrated The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming and 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by the elusive Lemony Snicket, and co-authored Picture the Dead, an illustrated young adult novel, with acclaimed writer Adele Griffin. Lisa is the creator of the award-winning McSweeney’s humor series Baby Be of Use, has drawn the Three Panel Book Review cartoon for the San Francisco Chronicle, and is a comics contributor at The Rumpus. For more info, visit her website.
What is the strongest bond you have with an inanimate object?
I have an old stuffed animal bunny-in-a-flowered dress named “Mrs. Rabbit” that my grandparents brought me from England when I was very small. She is very dapper. And clearly, very formal, since I never even knew her first name.
What song could you listen to all day on repeat?
“Come On, Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners.
If you were to write a song about your high school years, what would you title it?
“Lonely Little Goth Girl.”
What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone?
Put on “Come On, Eileen,” all day on repeat.
What have you tried in life, but simply were not good at?
What is your favorite movie line?
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In one sentence, can you describe the state of your work space?
Solitary and neatly cluttered, filled with books and half empty coffee cups.
What are you most neurotic about?
The appropriate question should be “What AREN’T you neurotic about?”
What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish could make a comeback today?
Which days were those, again?
Why would somebody choose not to date you?
Because I’m married.
What one thing have you kept over the years for no good reason?
A dresser drawer full of cassette mix tapes.
If you could buy one object to complete your home, what would it be?
What movie character freaks you out?
That girl from the Exorcist. I don’t ever need to see her again.
When do you feel the most energized?
After 10 hours of sleep and 3 cups of coffee.
Which of your projects gives you the most pride or satisfaction?
My answer is always “The one I’ve just finished.”
How would you define creativity?
How do you know when a project is finished?
When the deadline is upon me.
What impact (good or bad) do you think the media has had on your work?
Good! I love being inspired by everything I see, whether it be online or on paper. And social media, though it’s been incredibly distracting, has also been a source of comfort and community.
Can you share some words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of illustrating?
Keep a sketchbook. Draw every day. Make up assignments for yourself…and finish them.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?
Nope. I’m the same as I ever was. In my head I’m still 12 years old and obsessed with ghosties.
If your illustrations were edible, what would they be? Why?
Cookies. Because I love cookies.
Do you have family members who like to illustrate too?
My son loves to illustrate and draw comics.
Did your upbringing influence the way you illustrate today?
I was always given lots of freedom to be myself. I am sure that helped me to become the kind of person who followed her bliss. Which is certainly the kind of person who goes into the arts.
Do your illustrations reflect your personality?
People have said that all the characters I draw either look like me or like my kid. And they all look nervous and broody. So I guess, “yes.”
What drew you to a career in illustrating rather than a job that would offer more financial stability? Have you ever questioned that decision?
I went to graduate school for graphic design because I love to draw but also wanted health insurance and my husband was a novelist so he was no help on that front. But then he became a best-selling novelist and I no longer needed to provide us with health insurance, so I quit my job at the earliest opportunity. Illustrating children’s books is and has always been exactly what I wanted to do and I’m beyond lucky that I get to do it without financial stress.
How do you think you differ from other illustrators?
See the above about lacking financial stress. It’s incredibly rare and supremely lucky.
If you were no longer able to illustrate, how else would you express your creativity?
Writing. Teaching. Appreciating other people’s amazing work. All of which I do already.
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