Every day since Donald J. Trump became the Republican presidential nominee on July 21, 2016, local artist Warren Craghead has drawn him, or someone in his administration. Now six months’ worth of Craghead’s daily drawings have been published in a collection titled Trump Trump, Volume 1: Nomination to Inauguration.
“I thought when I started it that I would be drawing until November of 2016,” Craghead says. “And then when he won I decided to keep going, drawing every day, pairing a grotesque portrait with quotes from him.” Now 18 months into the project, Craghead hasn’t grown weary of drawing President Trump.
“I like drawing him,” Craghead says. “There are days I feel like I can’t keep up with the stuff he says or the stuff his administration does. But I never feel like I don’t want to draw him. I know that sounds crazy.”
In his daily practice, Craghead says, the aesthetic deepens and grows. It has become a way to document not only the things Trump says but also the policy changes he makes. Craghead says he’s doing this “to preach to the choir because that’s who a preacher should preach to first.” He wants to tell those resisting Trump, “You’re right to resist. This isn’t normal.” And then there are Trump’s supporters. “I wanted to make it uncomfortable for people who were holding their noses and voting for him,” Craghead says. “You can’t look away from the racist things he says and enables. …I want to make it difficult for people to stay on the Trump train.”
Trained as a fine artist with an MFA in painting, Craghead says, “I really resisted being a cartoonist for a long time.” For about 20 years he drew a little-known genre called poetry comics, doing both the writing and drawing himself. But with the Arab Spring that began in 2010, Craghead was moved to “use my drawing skills to look at and talk about things that matter to me in a social way.” After Bashar al-Assad gassed a Syrian neighborhood, he looked at photographs and drew them, “making myself witness it even though I’m from very far away and in this privileged place,” says Craghead.
For the last three years he has also made it a daily practice to draw images of the Armenian genocide of 100 years ago. He says these different kinds of political drawings attempt to “elicit empathy or make people really see what’s happened.”
“It is different for me to go on the offense,” he says of drawing Trump. His focus on the president grew out of two other political cartoon projects, Ladyh8rs, which focuses on misogynist public figures, and USAh8rs, which focuses on anti-American public figures. “I started those projects because I felt like there are a lot of people who get away with stuff, especially at the state government level, and no one knows who they are and what they do, so I started drawing horrible pictures of them.”
Over the last 18 months, his feeling toward Trump has evolved. “When the year first started I really just hated what he stood for and the things he said.” Now, Craghead says, “I have a deeper kind of loathing for his politics and the people around him, but I’ve also found some sympathy.”
While the caricature genre may seem an unlikely route to discovering someone’s humanity, studying President Trump every day has done this for Craghead. “I think that he’s a very sad person in a lot of ways,” Craghead says. “I think he’s hollow inside. I think he knows that he’s hated and it bothers him. Of course we’re all along on this ride with him so it’s sad for all of us.” And Craghead is quick to add “that doesn’t excuse who he is.”
“It’s like a King Lear kind of thing except we’re all in the crosshairs of his rage,” says Craghead. “I have sympathy for him on one level, but on others I don’t because he’s actively hurting people.”
As for the future of the project, Craghead says, “I’m going to draw him until he’s not president anymore. I feel pretty committed to that now because I’ve lasted this long.” The second volume, which covers the first year of the presidency, will be released this fall.