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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gonzo artist Ralph Steadman still seditious at 78

When Ralph Steadman starts a drawing, he makes a big splodge of ink on the page, dips his nib into it and sees where it leads him. Why anyone would do a pencil drawing first and then draw over it in ink is something he has never understood. "What's the point of that?" he asks rhetorically. "A drawing is an act of discovery." That's his approach to conversation, too: let a subject plop down and then swizzle it around to see what shapes it makes. It's quite exhilarating, but you can also understand why it took filmmaker Charlie Paul 15 years to shoot For No Good Reason, his documentary about Steadman's life and work. He's impossible to pin down.

Ralph Steadman is most famous, even among people not in the least bit interest in artists, for his crazed, spiky, savage illustrations for the equally mad writing of Hunter S. Thompson. Their first meeting was at the Kentucky Derby, which became one of the best pieces of writing Thompson ever did; the terrible two then went on to cover the American presidential elections, a foot race in Honolulu and a road trip that would become Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Johnny Depp, who played Thompson's alter ego Raoul Duke in the film version of Fear and Loathing, tries to interview Steadman in For No Good Reason. He is a terrible interviewer but their rapport is appealing. "He's a hell of a nice guy, you know," says Steadman. "Sweet and generous and modest, actually."
Ralph Steadman with Johnny Depp from the fim <i>For No Good Reason</i>.
Ralph Steadman with Johnny Depp from the fim For No Good Reason.
Of course Steadman did other work, masses of it, most of it just as savage and much of it award-winning. There were new illustrated editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, Treasure Island and The Life of Sigmund Freud; collaborations with poets Ted Hughes, Brian Patten and Adrian Mitchell; his recent volumes of fanciful cryptozoology called Extinct Boids; British stamp designs, newspaper cartoons and even advertising campaigns. Nearly 10 years after his death, however, Thompson's shadow looms large. They hit it off immediately, Steadman tells me. "I think because we both hated Nixon. That was the thing."

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/gonzo-artist-ralph-steadman-still-seditious-at-78-20141022-119v6m.html#ixzz3H9t4CGgr

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