Meet the Oakland 14-Year-Old Cartooning the Resistance

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On Jan. 21, when millions marched through the streets of small towns and major cities across the U.S. a day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, 58,000 copies of RESIST!, distributed by a small army of volunteers, marched with them.


The free 40-page newspaper, organized by Desert Island Comics owner Gabe Fowler and edited by Françoise Mouly (art editor of The New Yorker) and her daughter, writer Nadja Spiegelman, was the result of an open call for political comics and graphics that captured “women’s voices” in response to the election.

Fourteen-year-old Oakland 8th-grader Quinn Nelson was one of over 1,000 artists who submitted work — and the youngest to have her drawing printed in the collection. Not bad for her second political cartoon ever. But then her first, a heart-wrenching drawing of two girls — one born in the U.S., the other in Syria — won The New York Times’ 2016 editorial cartoon contest.

Left: Quinn Nelson's drawing in 'RESIST!' Right: Nelson's winning drawing in the 2016 'New York Times' editorial cartoon contest.
Left: Quinn Nelson's drawing in 'RESIST!' Right: Quinn's winning drawing in the 2016 'New York Times' editorial cartoon contest. (Courtesy of the artist)

Nelson’s highly successful venture into the world of political cartooning is a recent endeavor, but drawing is not. She takes two art electives at school and works at her bedroom table almost every day, using color markers and watercolor on paper to draw Harry Potter and anime characters — and most recently, the cast of The Breakfast Club.


“I’m a regular middle-schooler,” she says, listing off her extracurricular activities. “But with what’s going on in the world, you just want art to just make a statement.”

When KQED Arts asked Nelson to make a drawing for Women’s History Month, she chose to depict a group of women from vastly different moments in history: among the familiar faces are Malala Yousafzai, Dolores Huerta and Susan B. Anthony.

“I wanted to capture women who fought for something and made an impact on the world,” she says. “I think more women are stepping into positions of power. Women have more of a voice than they did, say, 100 years ago or even 50 years ago.”

She adds, “Hopefully in my lifetime there’ll be a woman president.”

Quinn Nelson, 'Women's History Month.'
Quinn Nelson, 'Women's History Month.' (Courtesy of the artist)

Text by Sarah Hotchkiss