Young, black, female Washington cartoonist speaks about diversity through her art

She is the first black female cartoonist published in The New Yorker.

February 14, 2020, 11:50 AM

At 24, Liz Montague became known as the first black female cartoonist ever published in the New Yorker.

Her work mostly portrays a recurring theme -- brown skin, curly hair and brightly colored clothes, as seen in her cartoons published in the Washington City Paper, and her senior thesis, "Cyber Black Girl," an interactive digital art project about race.

Montague said the inspiration for her cartoons comes from her own daily experiences.

"I try really hard just to stick to my perspective as an individual just because it's such a broad field of, like, black people as a whole, women as a whole," Montague said. "I don't want to pretend like I can represent every black person or every woman on the planet because everyone's different."

PHOTO: Liz Montague's work mostly portrays a recurring theme - brown skin, curly hair and women wearing bright colored clothes.
Liz Montague's work mostly portrays a recurring theme - brown skin, curly hair and women wearing bright colored clothes.
Matt Seyler/ABC News

Her usual morning starts at 6:30 a.m., a habit that's stuck with her since she was a college athlete.

As a freelancer, Montague sets aside a specific time block to stay on top of her work.

"I'm a one-person small business, and there's so much that goes into that," said Montague. "The deadlines are breathing down my neck."

PHOTO: Liz Montague is a 24-year-old freelance cartoonist based in D.C.
Liz Montague is a 24-year-old freelance cartoonist based in D.C.
Matt Seyler/ABC News

"I think that it's very rare for black people, or especially people of color in general, to get to tell their stories, and I think that there needs to be more of that," Montague said. "I think that hopefully the industry is becoming more welcoming of that."

The political tone in Montague's work is subtle, but she believes that her art brings a fresh perspective to the table as a young artist.

"I feel like I'm not shy about tackling some of the current events happening right now," Montague said. "I feel especially really passionate about climate change in particular."

She started drawing cartoons during her sophomore year at college, when she noticed the lack of diversity in the New Yorker cartoons. She reached out and voiced her thoughts directly to the magazine's cartoon editor.

"I like to think I was that bold back then," Montague said.

PHOTO: Liz Montague sketches out her drawing on her iPad.
Liz Montague sketches out her drawing on her iPad.
Bobby Gehlen/ABC News

That's when she sold her first cartoon.

"I think that it's really easy for people to not see things and that until you tell someone like, 'Hey, by the way, you know you might not see this, but I'm seeing this very big lack that you know, sometimes people are unaware of it,'" she said.

She wants to write books, teach at universities and travel in the future. But until then, she'll continue to pick up her pen and sketch another cartoon to meet her deadline.

ABC News' Ellie Smith, Matt Seyler and Bobby Gehlen contributed to this report.

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