Becoming an artist: Alum publishes graphic memoir

October 25, 2022


New Yorker cartoonist and 2018 grad Liz Montague always loved to draw. But she hadn’t considered turning her passion into a career until she met art professor Tanja Softić.

When the time came to declare a major, Montague, who attended the University of Richmond on a track scholarship, was unsure what to pick. “Then I took Intro to Drawing,” she said.

Montague’s work in the class was so impressive, Softić suggested she pursue art full time.

“I’ll never forget it,” Softić said. “I saw her first drawing, and thought, she can do anything.”

The two reunited by Zoom for the first time since 2018, reflecting on Montague’s journey from undergrad to published author. Montague’s first graphic novel, Maybe an Artist, came out this month.

“I struggled in college and even in the years after college, trying to figure out what I wanted, not just what everyone else wanted from me,” Montague said.

The moment where Softić encourages Montague to pursue art, first as her major, then as a career, is captured in Maybe an Artist. Montague credits the professor with helping her overcome self-doubt.

“I really like that in art there's no wrong answer,” she said. “You get to decide your own answer. Every day I am so glad that I ended up on the path that I did, because when you figure out what you want, everything will fall into place.”

Softić says Montague is being modest. The art professor recalls the young artist working tirelessly as a student and then as graphic designer after graduation, before her illustrations earned her a place in the spotlight.

Montague had her first cartoon published by The New Yorker at just 22. In 2020, Google reached out to her to create a Doodle of Jackie Ormes, the first Black female newspaper cartoonist in the U.S., for the company’s homepage. And she’s signed multiple book deals, including one for a three-book series with Scholastic.

“Liz took charge of her life, Softić said. “She said ‘yes’ to herself when it really mattered. And if you have that kind of a fortitude, you have justly deserved your success.”