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Culture

Renowned Cartoonist John Mavroudis Talks to TNH

October 3, 2020
By Matina Demelis

John Mavroudis is a Greek American cartoonist, known for his covers for The New Yorker, TIME magazine, The Nation, and many more. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Tam, and their 9-year old art director, Athena. 

Mavroudis spoke to The National Herald about his work, the political scene, and the American President he has drawn many times. 

The National Herald: Tell us a few things about you. Where you were born and raised? 

John Mavroudis: My father was a Greek citizen born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. He was very proud of being Greek and always instilled a love of all things Greek.  

I grew up in San Jose and was raised like a typical American kid. We did go to Greek Orthodox Church every other month, and we spent our weekends at my Yia Yia’s house where I would listen to all the grown-ups argue about politics, laugh, and eat. It was a wonderful environment. I also grew up being fascinated by Greek mythology. There was one particular book I would check out from the library every couple of weeks. My daughter, Athena, is now reading that book. 

TNH: Is what you are doing a job for you, or something that helps you spread some kind of message? How did you decide to follow this “path”? 

JM: It is and it’s not. I’m fortunate enough to get paid for what I do but I’d be doing it even if were also doing something else. To this day I do so many art pieces that will probably never see the light of day. But I feel a compulsion to create art. I truly love just sitting at a coffee shop and drawing. I feel that’s when I’m most comfortable. I can be an outgoing guy, but I can also feel very shy and awkward, as well. I grew up never quite fitting in anywhere. But when I’m drawing I’m completely in my element. 

When I can combine my art with my opinion on a topic I’m interested in or a message I feel I have to get out, that’s the peak. That’s the best of all worlds. 

TNH: You had a lot of cover pages in magazines. Which are your favorites and why? 

JM: My favorite would be my first TIME cover, of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. There was the joy of being asked to do it. There was the sheer terror of not living up to what they would expect and the elation of pulling it off as I had envisioned it and that was all before it actually made print. Once it was published, that brought on a whole new wave of emotions and attention. 

My other favorite cover, would be the portrait of Donald Trump for The Nation magazine. I wanted to make a statement on Trump that would stand the test of time. I wanted to portray his ugliness and expose (to me, it’s obvious) his disgusting nature. 

Those two pieces are kind of bookends. Opposites. But they both did what I hoped they would do. 

TNH: They call you an activist artist. What do you think about that? 

JM: I feel it’s an accurate description. While there’s nothing wrong with posting pictures on Facebook of what you had for dinner and something funny your cat did … The idea of limiting myself to that or simply drawing pretty pictures alone? While all this is going on? No. I can’t just shut up draw. I’ll keep speaking out. Too many people are numb to the daily onslaught of bad news spewing from the White House sewer. I try to remind myself not to accept this. It’s not right, and history will not judge us, especially if we are silent to this. So, activist? Sure. Artist? Sure. There are others who put their body on the line for these things. So, I know I’m fortunate to be able to speak my mind from the confines of my home. But I do what I can. 

TNH: What are people telling you about the TIME cover page? 

JM: I’ve heard a lot of feedback on this and my other TIME covers. If you wade into the comments, you have to remember that there are still 38% of the population that thinks Donald Trump is doing a good job. It’s a cult and there’s nothing I can do to shake that. There’re negative comments, but as an artist, having a thick skin will help. I had to develop that. I was very sensitive at first, but I always try to remind myself that everybody has their own opinion, especially on art. If everybody universally loves something, you’re probably doing something wrong.  

TNH: If you could have ten minutes with Donald Trump, what would you say to him? 

JM: Only talk? (Lol!) Honestly. I know he wouldn’t care about what I had to say … but if he had to actually stay there and listen to me for 10 minutes, I’d start by asking him why his parents were so bad to him? Why did he turn out to be such a piece of garbage? That’s my first reaction, but I’d have to think this through. Maybe I’d try to come up with something about how he could be a truly historic figure if he walked away from the Presidency with his head held up high and he could face his accusers in Court and beat them all! Appeal to his fat ego. And if he actually did it, we’d be rid of his murderous presence and he would be indicted and spend the rest of his pathetic life rotting in jail.  

TNH: In almost a month, we have elections. Are you preparing anything good for this day? 

JM: I did a piece about Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty sitting in front of the TV watching Trump in exasperation, with all kinds of medications next to them on the table for high blood pressure and ulcers and anxiety. That’s the way this whole country is now.  

TNH: What is Greece for you? 

JM: Greece is my spiritual home. It may be my actual home, some day. I’ve only visited twice, but both times I have memories to last my entire life. I will come back again and bring my wife and daughter with me. The land, the food, the sea, the people, the history, the gifts Greece has provided humanity. I am so proud of this. Greece has gone through so many tough times, but Greece will always find the light.  

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