Tuesday, November 17, RMCAD was honored to host Liz Montague, guest speaker for its 2020 World Building VASD series. Liz Montague is a cartoonist and illustrator whose work focuses on the intersection of self and social awareness. Her works build off of the importance of representation, accessible information, and drawing what you feel.
As a well-accomplished pioneer in her industry, Liz had much to shed light on during her VASD talk. She began by emphasizing the importance of emotions and expressing them not only in work but in everyday life. Drawing your feelings is rooted in emotional literacy- the ability to express an emotional state and communicate feelings. Although both are two separate acts, emotional literacy brings them together. Liz went on to shed insight on her thought processes when creating work, and what goes through her mind when creating a piece. She implored the audience to think about the barriers that may exist for different people. When she’s working on something, she often thinks “does the audience need this, or does my ego need this?” This is important because it can help eliminate potentially overcomplicating things during the creative process. With her New Yorker cartoons, she wanted to be respected and taken seriously and found that often caused her to create work that was unnecessarily overcomplicated. Montague gave the advice to “simplify, be specific, and simplify more.”
While living in D.C., Liz started her weekly single panel column, Liz at Large. It was her biggest dream to have her own cartoon strip, and she was faced with the challenge of trying to communicate through her work with a large audience of strangers. Prints needed to be submitted 1-2 weeks in advance, so maintaining relevance and relatability was ambitious. Montague wanted to be able to contribute to something that would make people feel better during a dark time. She found during this process that the practice of regularly documenting what she was drawing and then sharing it made her a better person. It helped her connect with people and be open and honest through the repetitive practice of being vulnerable. It was during this time, and after the column got extended (as it was so well-received) that she came to the realization that social literacy could be a tool for social justice. For her, emotions felt easier to handle and she had an outlet with her art that people were relating to in a way she did not expect.
Her work not only landed her the Liz at Large column but a spot in The New Yorker, after reaching out to bring light to their lack of representation of people of color. From there, she was chosen to be the artist to help. She went on to create cartoons for them based on her feelings, and what was going on at the time, like the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She acknowledged that it’s “difficult to create art when things are hard,” and encouraged artists to be honest and transparent in their feelings when creating work.
Liz’s knowledge and experience span beyond her years. RMCAD is proud to have hosted such a well-accomplished artist with so much value to provide the community. She concluded her talk by encouraging artists to share their feelings, even if it’s scary. “If it’s scary, that means others are likely feeling that way too. You’re never really alone.”
To learn more about Liz Montague, her VASD talk at RMCAD, and to follow her social channels, visit these links:
Instagram – @lizatlarge
Twitter – @lizatlarge