He was born in South Africa to Greek immigrant parents. He studied at St Martin’s, London and Beckenham School of Art, Kent. In 1971, after a very successful career in London as the political cartoonist for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and Punch, he settled in Ermioni, Greece. The typical Greek characters of the countryside and Athens became an important source of inspiration for many of his works. In the last years of his life, Papas concentrated on book illustration and painting in Oregon, USA. In 2000, he died in a plane crash in Canada.
Papas’ works have been exhibited internationally from Cape Town and London to Toronto and Jerusalem. In 1983, Kourd Gallery in Skoufa Str. held an exhibition named “Papas. Pictures from modern Greece”. Some of his cartoons were chosen for the 1970 National Portrait Gallery exhibition "Drawn and Quartered: the world of the British newspaper cartoon 1720–1970", while other examples of his work are held in the permanent collections of the V&A Museum, the University of Kent and the Vorres Museum, Athens.