Most of the famous political faces who end up with a starring role in one of Graeme Bandeira’s cartoons are happy to ignore how their most defining features have been exaggerated, believing instead that old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Over the years The Yorkshire Post’s illustrator has had his work endorsed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and George Osborne, but there was one image of Theresa May that proved a step too far for the Prime Minister.
“During the last election campaign we knew she was coming to visit the paper, so like I always do I had a chat with one of her security guys and asked whether she would be able to sign some of my cartoons,” says Graeme. “I’ve drawn her a lot since she walked into Number 10 so there were quite a lot to choose from.
“He took pictures of a few of them, texted them to her before she arrived and it was all good to go. When she came over to my desk, I thought I might as well see if should would sign another one I’d done of her with Donald Trump holding her by the waist like Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. I’d been told by her people not to show her it, as they didn’t think she’d be amused, but I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
“She laughed when she saw it, but her exact words were, ‘I don’t think I can sign that. My husband would not approve’.”
Graeme joined The Yorkshire Post in 1998 and was given his own weekly slot in the Saturday edition a year ago. Having covered everything from the saga that is Brexit to the late-night tweets of the current Potus as well as the big Yorkshire stories that have kept the county talking, he reckoned it would be a good idea to collate them into a book.
“I mentioned it to the editor, James Mitchinson, and he laid down a challenge,” he says. “He said I should put the idea out on Twitter and if I could get 500 retweets he would give the book the go-ahead. I am pretty sure he thought I wouldn’t even come close, but he probably should have set the bar a bit higher, as I hit the target within 24 hours.”
Drawing Attention will be published later this year by Great Northern Books and features a rogues gallery of world leaders from May and Trump to Kim Jong-un.
“Some people are made for caricatures and I always start by drawing their most distinctive characteristic,” says Middlesbrough-born Graeme, who studied illustration at Teesside University. “With Trump, that’s his hair and with Theresa May, it’s her nose and those bags under her eyes which perhaps unsurprisingly seem to have got bigger and darker over recent months.
“Once you have those key characteristics down then everything else tends to fall into place, but it’s not just about getting a likeness. With any newspaper cartoon it has to have something to say. Some weeks there will a story that you can’t avoid, but when there is nothing obvious we can spend a long time discussing what issue we want to address.
“We always try to do something relevant to Yorkshire but we also have the scope to take on the big national and international stories.”
While much of Graeme’s work is designed to puncture the egos of politicians, he has also produced some poignant illustrations marking the start of Mental Health Week and the death of the quiet, yet indomitable Hannah Hauxwell.
“That mix is important. I could have filled an entire book with cartoons of Donald Trump, but you don’t want the reader to get bored and sometimes it really works to have an illustration which makes people stop and think.
“For those, more tends to be less. The one I did to tie in with Mental Health Week featured two men, one with a hand on the other’s shoulder and above it said, ‘It’s ok not to be ok’.
“For those who don’t get the paper I always put them out on Twitter and that one in particular got a huge reaction.”
Drawing Attention, which has a foreword from Geoffrey Boycott who also features in the book along with Joe Root, will be a showcase for 100 of Graeme’s best cartoons. Most are those which have already appeared in print, but he has also been working on a number of exclusive illustrations.
“Like the weekly cartoons, I want it to be a celebration of Yorkshire and those characters who sum up the spirit of the county. You couldn’t have a book like this and not include Boycott and he was so pleased with the end result that the original is now hanging in his kitchen.
“For me, that kind of reaction is just the icing on the cake.”
Drawing Attention will be published as a limited edition hardback in September, but order online at gnbooks.co.uk before May 31 and get the name of your choice printed in the book. Each book costs £19.99, including UK delivery, but buy two and save £5 (enter coupon code PDX5at checkout).