Cartoonist Elizabeth Montague isn’t afraid to set the standard and create new norms. At 24 years old, she’s the first Black woman to have her illustrations featured in The New Yorker magazine — an honor she doesn’t take lightly.In an interview with The Washington Post, Montague reveals some of the challenges she faces as an artist and why she’s inspired to keep drawing.
“Unfortunately, the standard for people of color is that we don’t get to tell our own stories,” she said. “I don’t take that for granted. I don’t take that lightly.”
In Montague’s first cartoon published in The New Yorker, two Black women stand on a rooftop that overlooks a city in the background.
A Batman-inspired spotlight shines a message into the night sky above them that reads: “Per my last e-mail.”
Beneath them, a caption reads: “We’ve done all we can. It’s out of our hands now.”
New Yorker cartoon editor Emma Allen told The Royal Gazette that she has had to reject so many cartoonists that she feels like the Grim Reaper, but noted that Montague’s commitment to a more inclusive and representative environment for storytelling is refreshing.“Liz has a view of the world that is unique to her. Additionally, though, she just has a brain that functions in the weird way gag cartoonists’ brains do — she’s able to stitch together a funny drawing and a specific observation to alchemically create a joke that lives in a little box,” Allen said.
Montague, now living in Washington D.C., told The Post that because of her national platform, people expect her to speak for all women or the entire Black community, but she remains true to her experience.
“I’m a valid perspective,” she said. “I’m not every perspective. I’m not everybody.”
Originally from the suburbs of South Jersey, New Jersey, Montague is the daughter of an architect and an executive. While on a track scholarship at the University of Richmond, she discovered her passion for art when graphic designer Bojan Hadzihalilovic gave a speech during her sophomore year about how art could be used to communicate complex ideas in an accessible way.
Later that year, she started a biographical cartoon series called "Liz at Large" and posted her work on Instagram. Montague’s cartoon runs weekly in the Washington City Paper.
She submits a new cartoon for "Liz at Large" publication every Friday. On Tuesday, Montage sends The New Yorker a cartoon and occasionally draws up one based on the news. The main characters of her illustrations are always Black, but their concerns are broad and span various aspects of life.
You can learn more about Montague and her journey to telling stories through art in this inspiring In The Know video posted above.