"I started drawing cartoons to make my mother laugh,” says Liza Donnelly, a
cartoonist for The New Yorker who will appear at the 12th Animix Festival at the
Tel Aviv Cinematheque, an international festival of comics and animated films.
The festival will run from August 8-12. The festival features a dazzling array
of exhibits, workshops, classes and events that will provide some much-needed
relief from the heat and summer doldrums for kids, teens and anyone with an
interest in cartoons and comics.
You may not know Donnelly’s name, but
anyone who reads The New Yorker will be familiar with her wry take on
contemporary life, and her simple but engaging line drawings.
discovered her artist and comic talent as a child, and her mother encouraged it,
by giving her a book of James Thurber cartoons.
“I just liked drawing,”
she recalls. “I didn’t aspire to the heights of cartooning until I met Nurit
Karlin,” an Israeli cartoonist and illustrator who was living in the United
States. “I liked her very simple, actionless, often political,
Donnelly was drawing quite a bit then while holding down a
day job at the American Museum of Natural History. But getting to know Karlin
was a turning point in her life. While Donnelly loved James Thurber’s work, his
sometimes over-the-top male chauvinism turned her off. “The way he dealt with
women scared me. But Nurit was different.”
Fortuitously, around this
time, New Yorker art director Lee Lorenz was “bringing different voices into the
magazine” in the early Eighties. She submitted some drawings that were accepted
as illustrations, and she began drawing cartoons that were published, both by
The New Yorker
and other magazines.
“More women were starting to get into
cartooning then,” she says, mentioning another well-known colleague, Roz Chast.
“There isn’t a girls’ club, though.
We meet each other in the hallway and
talk, but there is no formal group.”
Soon, Donnelly was able to quit her
day job. In addition to cartoons, she also does artwork for books (she has
illustrated a series on dinosaurs), and her work has appeared in such
publications as The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Nation,
Audubon, Glamour, Good Housekeeping,
Cartooning is very
much the family business in her home, since she is married to a fellow New
cartoonist, Michael Maslin. The two even co-wrote and drew a book,
Cartoon Marriage / Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker's
Cartooning Couple ( Random House, 2008).
“We met at a party” of New
Yorker contributors, she says. Although you might expect that having a husband
and wife in such a small and quirky field might get competitive or complicated,
Donnelly says it’s actually quite simple.
“We don’t show each other our
work until it’s published,” she explains, so there are no spats over who gets to
make use of amusing incidents from their daily lives. The couple, who live in a
suburb of New York City, have two daughters in their twenties, “who are both
artistically inclined,” not surprisingly.
Having two cartoonist parents
was fun for them growing up, Donnelly says, but they also saw “how hard it is,
not having a steady paycheck.” New Yorker cartoonists submit their work each
week, and even for established contributors such as Donnelly and Maslin, there
is no guarantee their work will be accepted.
Although she acknowledges
that cartooning is a lot of fun, sometimes it isn’t easy.
“When I was
dealing with an illness in the family, it was hard,” she recalls. 9/11 was also
a turning point for her. “Making people laugh is a wonderful job. But I had
always had this feeling that I need to save the world. And I began to do
cartoons that were more political, where I make people laugh through
She also began to write, and now has a blog that runs on
Forbes.com, where she writes about issues in the news that interest
“It’s a great venue for me. I feel I’m really finding my voice,” she
says. Recently, she interviewed Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury, after
he did a series of comics about sexual abuse in the military, for the
Donnelly is philosophical about the fact that men still outnumber
women in cartooning, and is working on a book called, Women on Men, that will
come out next year. “When I meet women from all over the world who are
cartoonists, we talk about why there aren’t more of us. And about how politics
affect daily life, and how cartoons can be a way to share our
humanity.”For more information on Animix, and Donnelly’s appearance
there, go to http://www.animixfest.co.il You can check out Donnelly’s work on
her Website at www.lizadonnelly.com