Donnelly, who is well known for her work for The New Yorker and CBS News, spoke Thursday night as part of Elon’s Liberal Arts Forum speaker series.
Whitley Auditorium was packed Thursday evening to hear American cartoonist Liza Donnelly discuss “Drawing on Humor for Change.” Donnelly’s lecture is the second of four scheduled as a part of Elon’s Liberal Arts Forum speaker series this year.
Donnelly is best known for her work with The New Yorker, cartoons for CBS News as well as her writing and illustrations on politics and global women’s right for Medium. She is also a pioneer in the field of digital live drawing and has authored 17 books to date.
“If you can’t tell, cartoons are my life,” Donnelly joked at the beginning of her lecture. She opened the evening explaining how crucial cartoons are in the press and in our democracy. Donnelly says that humans are visual and cartoons have both helped and hurt society over the generations, but that the job of a cartoonist is very important.
Donnelly began drawing cartoons as a child, pulling in what she was noticing what was happening in the world around her in Washington, D.C. As she grew up, she saw Watergate, civil rights riots and women’s protests occurring all around her. At the time, Donnelly thought that she didn’t have enough opinions to become a cartoonist. But with time, she realized that she was limiting herself with such thoughts. She understood that she, too, could be a cartoonist.
Donnelly remembers flipping through her parent’s copy of The New Yorker and being impressed at how certain cartoons were “quietly political.” Later in life, she would a job in New York City and begin selling her cartoons weekly to that same weekly magazine.
“I didn’t think of myself as a woman cartoonist,” Donnelly said. “I thought of myself as a cartoonist.”
Throughout her lecture, Donnelly showcased her own cartoons as well as cartoons from around the world and throughout history in time. Donnelly’s main interests are specifically in female empowerment, cultural issues, and political cartoons.
Donnelly told the audience that cartoons don’t always have to be funny, which she displayed through her more serious cartoons tackling the topics of gun violence and the frightening statistics on sexual assault in the United States.
Now, in addition to her cartoons, Donnelly has been working on a new form of journalism she calls “live drawing.” Donnelly records what she sees happening in front of her through her cartoons. Donnelly records what she sees happening in front of her through her cartoons. One example she shared was a live drawing from a women’s march, as well as one drawn just hours before in the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies class taught by Professor Stephen Bloch-Schulman. While watching a group of Elon students present to the class, Donnelly sketched them live and shared it with the audience Thursday night.
Donnelly’s visit and lecture are a part of Elon’s Liberal Arts Forum speaker series and funded by the Student Government Association.
For more information about Donnelly, you can visit her website here.