Cartoonist David Rowe on Donald Trump, Australian politics and why ‘it’s almost too easy’


October 04, 2019 00:16:17

Political cartoonist David Rowe was sitting up late at night in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 US election.

The award-winning satirist for the Australian Financial Review was no stranger to the fickle nature of politics, but this was clearly a bigger moment than most.

“It just came to me. I thought I have got to comment on this, it was pretty historic,” he said this week.

What followed was a cartoon of a sly-eyed President-elect lying in bed next to a Statue of Liberty who appears to be waking to an awful realisation.

As Rowe notes: “The eyes just got it.”

The cartoon went viral, amassing thousands of likes and shares on social media, including from celebrities like pop star Rihanna.

But not everyone was a fan.

“I got a lot of flak from America, a lot of hate mail and stuff like that. There’s a lot of [Donald Trump] fans out there,” he said.

It hasn’t stopped Rowe, however, who maintains Mr Trump is one of his favourite people to draw.

“He’s got an amazing face, to start with. So it’s just a physical thing that helps,” he said.

“Trump has just been a boon for cartoonists everywhere. It’s just been incredible, every day.

“In fact, it’s almost too easy, there’s too much to keep up with, with Trump.”

Rowe draws, on average, 14 cartoons every week for the Financial Review, and with multiple Walkley Awards to his name he’s now given a lot of free rein.

He has just released a book, Politics Now, which is a collection of 200 of his cartoons over the past five years.

Australian politicians get a thorough run, with everyone from Scott Morrison to Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten having their image distorted in brilliant watercolour.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton also makes an appearance.

“Coming from Canberra, we used to get these little huntsmen in the corner of the room. So doing Dutton as a big huntsman sort of fit,” Rowe said.

The 2018 Liberal Party spill that toppled Malcolm Turnbull also features.

“The thing with this drawing was, because it was done on the morning of the coup, I’d had Dutton in that chair and had finished it, basically,” he said.

“Then I was watching events unfold and had to quickly cut and paste all the faces around and got it in just in deadline.”

In his spare time, Rowe also drew former Insiders host Barrie Cassidy as a kind of celebration when he stepped away from the show this year.

There are a couple of things you won’t often see in Rowe’s cartoons — he generally avoids notable deaths (“you don’t want to be like a vulture”) and his early editors didn’t like toilets in the images (“that crossed a boundary for the Fin at that time”).

But for the most part, it’s all fair game.

As for what the politicians think of his cartoons, Rowe wouldn’t know.

“I try to keep away from any sort of commentary from politicians,” he said.

“You will get the odd phone call, but I always let them go through to message.”








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