Our Oddbird Artist series was born at the onset of the pandemic. It was a way for us to not only support incredible artists we love by profiling them and sharing their work but also to hopefully inspire our community on their own journey of creativity, finding new rhythms in uncertain times, and the healing act of making art.

Liz is a national treasure. The end.

We are so excited to introduce you to Artist #23 in our ongoing Artist series with our dear friend, mama, heartwarming author, and wildly talented illustrator, Liz Climo!

We think it's safe to say that there are very few cartoonists left in the world who aren't afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and connecting with the child at the heart of every adult is the name of Liz Climo's game.

With Father's Day around the corner, Liz invited us into her studio to talk about the immense value of empathy in humor, children's books that connect with parents, and the beautiful story of Rory, an impetuous little dinosaur raised by his single dad. A deeply moving book to share with any father figure this Father's Day!

Q. Who are you and what do you do?

A. Hello, my name is Liz Climo! I was an animator for many years and now work full-time as an author, illustrator & cartoonist.

Q. Can you tell us how you got started and how you knew you wanted to be a cartoonist?

A. I’ve loved to draw ever since I was very little, and always knew I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I studied Art in college, and worked toward a BA in Fine Arts at San Jose State, with the hopes of getting a BFA in Animation & Illustration. Unfortunately, when I submitted my portfolio for the Animation & Illustration program, it was rejected. About a week or so after the rejection, I applied for a job as a character layout artist on The Simpsons and (to my shock) actually got the job. I was such a big fan of the show, and practiced drawing the characters throughout high school, which I guess inadvertently prepared me for my application! I moved from San Jose to LA on my 23rd birthday and never looked back. I worked on The Simpsons for about 14 amazing years.

Q. What are the important themes you’re communicating through your art?

A. I think the biggest theme I want to convey is empathy, and just trying to see things from another person’s point of view. I feel like it’s so easy to fall into cynicism when it comes to humor, and there is plenty of that to go around (especially online). I want to create a safe place where people can laugh while also feeling seen and understood.

Q. How do you maintain your levity in an industry that so easily turns to sarcasm for its punchline?

A. There is a LOT of very funny, dark, and cynical comedy out in the world, and plenty of people who are great at creating it. I realized pretty early on that I am not really one of those people, and I’m just better at doing the sort of comics I do now. Before I create something, I try to imagine how it might come across for someone who already feels underrepresented, or who is tired of being the punchline of a joke. I think of how that person might feel and try to keep them in mind. Life is so hard, and it only seems to get harder. I just want people to feel happy and included, because it really sucks to feel like nobody sees you. I think there are ways to be compassionate without being too maudlin or heavy-handed, and that’s always my goal.

Q. Do you have any rituals that keep you motivated and inspired?

A. Long walks! I go on a long walk every morning. It helps me get motivated (since I work from home, I find it helps to leave the house for a bit in the morning) and feel inspired by the people I see out in the world. Some days I get a lot of ideas, and some days (or weeks!) I have no inspiration at all, and in that case I just get a bit of exercise. I am getting better at not panicking during those dry spells, though. We all need a little time to let our minds rest.

Q. We love Rory and the story of his adventures with his single dad. Can you tell us about your inspiration for that book?

A. My mom passed away when I was 21, and we were really close. I remember how hard it was to hear my friends talk about doing things with their moms, or when my younger brother had a mother/son dance at school – things like that, where we felt sort of excluded, and the sting of losing her felt even more painful. I created Rory and his dad with single/widowed parents and their children in mind and hadn’t seen too many books (at the time) about single dads.

Q. How does being a parent affect the art you want to create?

A. Being a parent definitely reiterates the sort of work I already hope to do. Before having my daughter, I’d imagine a younger version of myself seeing my work and it making me feel better on a hard day at school, after a fight with a friend, etc. Now, I imagine her seeing it, and hopefully making her feel good. My biggest hope for her is that she is able to find an abundance of happiness in her lifetime.


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