Lizzy O'Donnell

BFA '17; Saturday School '12, '13; Summer Institute '12

Illustration (BFA)

Summer Institute changed my entire life. It may sound hyperbolic…but it’s true.

Pre-College Saturday School '12, '13

Pre-College Summer Institute '12
Art, Media + Design

BFA '17 (Illustration)
Winner of the 2016 Zankel Scholarship, Society of Illustrators

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Current living in: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Liz O’Donnell is an illustrator based out of Philadelphia. Since graduating from the Illustration (BFA) program at UArts, they've found a home in picture books and children’s publishing—however, they're interested in a variety of other illustration markets. Liz is also a professor at UArts teaching Illustration courses to both high school and undergraduate students. 

Liz loved to write, but they also wanted to draw. Later they loved to draw, but they still wanted to tell stories. A high school teacher who recognized their interest and talent showed them a brochure for Summer Institute and suggested Liz study illustration. “My mom had to sell my grandfather’s truck in order to afford the tuition,” they say. They were grateful for the support and encouragement. Learning to make images with a narrative element—illustration—was precisely what they longed to do. A self-described, “Philly kid who draws,” Liz had not realized that making art was a “reasonable profession” to pursue. After a life-changing summer experience, Liz attended Pre-College Saturday School in 2012-2013, and then enrolled as an undergraduate at UArts the following year. Many of the “amazing” faculty they studied with in Pre-College became their undergraduate professors, who continued to inspire and motivate them.

At UArts, I found my passion for illustration, which has given me a purpose.

Liz has achieved notable early success. As a junior at UArts, they were awarded the prestigious Zankel Scholarship from the Society of Illustrators. The recipient is chosen through a nationwide search for “an illustration student with a combination of talent, promise and scholastic excellence.” The competition requires submission of a portfolio of original work and a personal interview with a panel of judges. The prize of $10,000 is intended to help defray the costs of the student’s senior year of college. UArts faculty have said the Award is a “remarkable achievement,” and reflects Liz’s hard work at the University. They are “officially the country’s best junior illustration major.”

As a UArts undergraduate, Liz had the opportunity to work as teaching assistant for their mentor UArts professor Christian Patchell, with whom they had studied in Summer Institute, and to intern with Geisel Medal-winning children’s book author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli. After the internship, they worked as an animator on original video trailers promoting Pizzoli’s books for Disney-Hyperion.

It never would have occurred to me that I could have a career doing anything related to art without my Pre-College experience.

A recent visit to Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum to view the work of the legendary Maurice Sendak influenced Liz to focus their work on children’s book illustration. They spent the first few months after graduation polishing their portfolio before beginning the process of showing their work to literary agents and children’s book publishers. As the title of one of Liz’s lively, quirky and uniquely engaging illustrations announces: “Something’s in the works.”

Lizzy O'Donnell's student poster for Halloween, a hidden pictures puzzle
Night At The Psychic by Lizzy O'Donnell Illustration Alumni
Lizzy O'Donnell's student illustration, woman reading in overstuffed chair in colorful room with sleeping dog