Lizzy O'Donnell

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


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


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


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


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


Lizzy has achieved notable early success. As a junior at UArts, she was 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 Lizzy’s hard work at the University. She is “officially the country’s best junior illustration major.”

As a UArts undergraduate, Lizzy had the opportunity to work as teaching assistant for her mentor UArts professor Christian Patchell, with whom she had studied in Summer Institute, and to intern with Geisel Medal-winning children’s book author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli. After the internship, she 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 Lizzy to focus her work on children’s book illustration. She’ll spend the first few months after graduation polishing her portfolio before beginning the process of showing her work to literary agents and children’s book publishers. As the title of one of Lizzy’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