Meet the man who “colours in for a living”

Acclaimed Yorkshire Post illustrator Graeme Bandeira has moved into a new medium — he’s written a book. Here he shares thoughts on his job, being an author… and asking Theresa May to sign a rather risque sketch of her with a certain US President

“I’m a man who colours in for a living, and that will do for me.”

Those are the words of The Yorkshire Post illustrator — an increasingly rare thing in any regional newsroom — Graeme Bandeira, and this this week BLN caught up with him as he and The Post release a book entitled Drawing Attention.

With a foreword by the inimitable Yorkshire legend Geoffrey Boycott — who else! — and over 100 hand-painted creations, it is clear just how proud Bandeira is to have his own book published. Fresh from television interviews with the BBC and Sky’s Adam Boulton, he likened his recent prominence to England’s ’66 heroes.

“It felt like a World Cup Final victory when the editor told me he wanted my drawings to feature prominently in our Saturday edition,” he said. “Saturday’s YP is a big deal in Yorkshire, make no mistake.”

“It is by far our biggest-selling day and seems to be appreciated in all corners of the county and beyond, judging by the feedback I get on Twitter, so to be told I was going to be given that sort of platform and audience was just awesome.”

“I’ve always drawn, since childhood. My mam collected everything I ever drew on paper and was always full of encouragement for me. I lost her to mental illness two weeks after I produced my first ever Saturday cartoon so she have me the impetus to do this.”

In the various blurbs of the book, his editor James Mitchinson describes Bandeira as a journalist first and foremost. In that blurb he adds: “Few journalists can evoke such poignancy, laughter, loathing and derision. But that is the raison d’etre of the cartoon; to creep where words daren’t in order to arouse emotions our prose cannot.”

So how does the artist himself feel about that?

“A hand-rendered image can paint a million words,” he says. “I get to cherry-pick from the events of the week, be the talking point a sporting one, political, showbiz — whatever — and then apply that which is required. Sometimes it’s satire, sometimes its humour and occasionally compassion.”

Compassion runs through Bandeira’s work with some beautifully drawn tributes to those who have faced adversity, including the victims of terror attacks. He tells us in his dedication to the book a little more about his mother, and the moment he realised people liked his work.

“I produced my first Saturday cartoon two weeks after she died. She is the person who inspired me to complete this project with every ounce of expression possible. Without her support, encouragement and dedication to my work, this book wouldn’t have happened,” he says.

“My first cartoon featured Ryan Sidebottom. The main focus was his hair and how he was going to come to terms with a life outside of cricket whereby he’d be partaking in DIY duties, namely interior decorating.”

“As we have found out very recently he’s struggled and thankfully spoken out on the subject of mental health which will help others. When I first put the cartoon out on social media, Ryan was one of the first to respond. He said: “Honoured, humbed and delighted but I’d appreciate it if you could shave half an inch off my nose!”

“He even included the hashtags #shirleytemple and #leosayer — that got me up and running. Cartoons are meant to provoke, enlighten, educate and in the main entertain. I realised from that moment that people liked what I do.”

So how did that book come about?

With his trademark cheeky grin he tells us: “I approached the editor and quizzed him on the possibility of a book. My cartoons were being well-received online so I felt there was an appetite for something more. The editor said ‘get 500 retweets and I’ll think about it!’ A few hours later the job was done. I’m not sure he believed I’d ever be back to bother him about a book never mind a few hours later.”

Mischief clearly runs through Bandeira. His biggest smile of the interview comes when he regales us with the time he pulled a fast one on Mi6.

“I’d done a few of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and she often visits our offices to see the editor and talk to staff,” he beams.

“Several celebs have signed my work and I treasure them, so this was a chance to get the PM’s approval.”

“Thing is, nothing gets near the PM without security clearance so I had to send a couple to her advisors for approval. They gave a couple the nod so, happy days. As she was signing away I whipped out a slightly risque one of Donald Trump and Theresa in a compromising clinch … she laughed, to her credit, but said ‘I can’t possibly sign that one, my husband wouldn’t approve!’ That was a real highlight.

He adds: “The book was released first week in October. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It features over 100 of my best cartoons from the last eighteen months — including some that the editor considered too risque for print.”

“Whatever happens with the book, I’m content knowing it’s happened but am also confident that people will buy it to raise a smile. That means a lot to me.”

And the theme of compassion runs right through this story. Bandeira adds: “And for every copy sold, the publisher Great Northern Books has agreed to give £1 to Yorkshire Air Ambulance. It’s important to me to give something back.”

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