MPA Alum’s Comic Creations
By day, Arie Van De Graaff is a public servant, but by night he is an accomplished cartoonist.
Van De Graaff, who graduated with an MPA from BYU in 2001, has been in the public sector for nearly fifteen years, working as a research analyst for the Utah Association of Counties.
“I liked the idea of helping people and pursuing a career that wasn’t all about taking, but also about giving,” Van De Graaff says. “That was appealing to me.”
While the state and federal legislatures consider thousands of bills a year, Van De Graaff looks out for those that impact county interests, analyzing them to determine what is and what isn’t good for citizens of Utah counties. From there, he works to persuade legislatures to honor those interests.
“I enjoy working on policy and seeing how the work I do affects Utah citizens in legislation, hopefully for the better,” he says.
When he’s not researching and analyzing potential legislation, Van De Graaff is busy pursuing a childhood passion: drawing.
“Cartooning is something I’ve always done,” he says. “Growing up, I was always doodling and drawing things. In the MPA program, my professor Kirk Hart talked a lot about finding your daimon. Your daimon is your passion in life, and he encouraged students to find what that passion was and pursue that, rather than pursuing a career for money, prestige, or other reasons. That stuck with me. I knew even then that creating art was my daimon.”
Van De Graaff continued with his art after completing the MPA program and began getting his cartoons published, alongside working as an analyst. He first published his cartoons with LDS Church publications, and since then, has published four books and designed apps featuring his cartoons, which have been downloaded more than 100,000 times. He contributes a quarterly comic strip to the MPA Newsletter, as well as a weekly strip to the Mormon Times section of the Deseret News, sharing inspiration he finds in LDS culture.
“You have to be observant,” Van De Graaff says. “There are times where you worry that you’ll never come up with another idea again, but fortunately, with hard work and time, you are able to come up with more. It is a process, it is a little bit of work, you have to put some thought and effort into it, but it’s certainly rewarding.”
Van De Graaff says he owes much to his MPA experience, where he was taught to pursue his interests and learned from accomplished teachers, faculty, and students.
“I’ve got really fond memories of the MPA program,” he says. “It was definitely the highlight of my educational career. I never felt like the students were competing with each other. We were always pulling for each other, which is pretty unique.”
Visit Van De Graaff’s website, The Mormon Cartoonist, here.