You’ve seen the work of 84-year-old Welsh artist and illustrator Ralph Steadman, even if you haven’t realized it. His searing political caricature and trademark flying ink spatter have illustrated major works of literature and journalism for the past half-century – and most notably the hallucinogenic writing of Hunter S. Thompson, resulting in an alchemic collaboration that wove together journalism and illustration to create what history has described as Gonzo, and what Steadman calls the meeting between an ex-Hell’s Angel with a shaved head and a matted-haired geek with string warts.
We spoke in advance of his new retrospective, “Ralph Steadman: A Life in Ink,” and talked about this storied, ink-stained career: what it means to illustrate depravity, how a caricature can capture both body and soul, and where to look for the ever-present birdsong that undergirds our current doom.
[2:18]: Love of Picasso and Duchamp.
[3:11]: Where do you start with caricature, the body or the soul?
[5:40]: Drawing with a pen – “no such thing as a mistake.”
[7:09]: The difference between illustration and “fine art”.
[9:55]: Use of the geometric in Steadman’s work, ink spatter, a conversation with the paper.
[13:10]: Coming to the U.S. in 1970, David Hockney “Paranoids”.
[14:30]: Use of photographs and text in drawing.
[15:15]: I, Leonardo, the terror of the blank canvas, and “prorogation”.
[17:53]: Style, “exposing depravity” and being purified by drawing it.
[22:33]: Early career before collaborating with Hunter S. Thompson, alchemy, gonzo.
[29:08]: Favorite faces to draw.
[30:48]: 2020, the pandemic, and finding the birdsong in doom.
The Blue Dot Sessions, "Crumbtown"
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