Andy Davey was born in London in 1956. He trained as a research chemist, but became a professional caricaturist and cartoonist in 1993, after winning a national cartoon competition on the theme of "Back to Basics", satirising John Major. As he later recalled of his new career, "the overriding attractions were a) not wearing a tie and b) not having to get up early."
Davey has contributed editorial cartoons to the Guardian, The Times and the Sunday Telegraph, and has had work published in Punch, Private Eye, Scotsman, Spectator, and New Statesman. He also worked on 2DTV, the satirical animated television programme broadcast by ITV from 2001 to 2004.
In January 2009 Davey became editorial cartoonist for The Sun, providing four full-colour cartoons a week. At that time the paper supported the Labour Party, despite being harshly critical of the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Davey, who described himself as "a pinko, woolly-liberal cartoonist", was able to fit in with this political stance, but in September 2009 The Sun abandoned the Labour Party, and in the following year's General Election it supported the Conservatives. "I could no longer bash the Tories", Davey later recalled, "some subjects were absolutely taboo."
Davey was instructed to support David Cameron and the Conservative Party, and, although he protested over repeated editorial interventions, he found "it was pointless." His political roughs were rejected in favour of those on pop culture, and, although he decided to omit his signature from those cartoons he was told to draw, he acknowledged afterwards that "they castrated me - I was a house pet." His editorial cartoons were often reduced in size, or omitted entirely from the paper, and Davey felt that increasingly they "looked an anachronism". It was no surprise when, in October 2013, the decision was taken to drop them from weekday issues.
Davey regards cartoons as a vital part of the political process. "When someone is caricatured it means they have arrived - it gives them status", he told an interviewer in 2001: "Look at what Steve Bell did with John Major and his underpants, or Margaret Thatcher and her mad, staring eyes. Everybody remembers these images." However, creating a new political caricature takes time. "Someone who has just entered public office is a bit bland at first", Davey noted in 2007: "Under the sharp lights of the media their foibles appear as events unfold. Then if a cartoonist hits the right vein, finds a good metaphor, it develops a life of its own."
Davey cites his influences as "Wham! and the Beano originally": "Then The Lone Groover [by Tony Benyon] in the NME, Robert Crumb, Larry and finally Steve Bell. You can also throw Gerald Scarfe into the mix somewhere." As Davey noted in 2009, in political caricature "Steve Bell or Gerald Scarfe tend to set the benchmark and others follow": "None of us can draw Bush without seeing Steve Bell's monkey."
From 2006 until 2012 Davey was chairman of the Professional Cartoonists' Organisation, and he remains cautiously optimistic about the future of political cartooning. Political cartoonists can have an impact, he argues, but “how much of an effect they have is an open question”: “the important thing that they do – like all images – is to leave a mark on the subconscious. And the subconscious is a very powerful thing.” As he observed in 2014, in a time of falling sales and revenue, newspapers may simply find it easier to devote more space to advertisements “than to run an unpredictable, chaotic piece of graphic humour commissioned from a grumpy old curmudgeon with a scratchy nib and too many ideas which may offend.” As newspapers decline, he told one interviewer, the place of political cartooning "may well be as a radical but unpaid version on the web."
- Jennifer Harper “Back to the Drawing Board”, The Scotsman, 24 September 2001, p.6.
- Andy Davey in "Who or what made you want to cartoon?", 10 September 2005, at www.ccgb.org.uk
- Sara O'Reilly “Around Town - True blues”, Time Out, 31 January 2007, p.36.
- Ali McConnell “Yankee doodles: Obama in cartoons”, 23 April 2009, news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/8004024.stm
- Helen Lewis “Ink-stained assassins”, New Statesman, 23 August 2012.
- Andy Davey “Loss of habitat threatens cartoonist species”, E!Sharp, January 2014: http://esharp.eu/cartoon-gallery/
- Andy Davey "The Power of Cartoons", lecture at the Medway Campus of the University of Kent, 4 February 2014.
- Andy Davey “Truth, Power and…Cartoons: Are Political Cartoons Irrelevant?”, 6 February 2014, http://www.andydavey.com/blog
- Andy Davey's website at http://www.andydavey.com/
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