Artist and author Ralph Steadman's anarchic illustrations brought vivid life to an array of projects, from Hunter S. Thompson's groundbreaking Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) to children's books, plays ... Read more »
Artist and author Ralph Steadman's anarchic illustrations brought vivid life to an array of projects, from Hunter S. Thompson's groundbreaking Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) to children's books, plays, movie posters and dozens of other showcases during his five-decade career. Born May 15, 1936 in the North West England town of Wallasey, Ralph Steadman was raised in North Wales after the devastating effects of the Blitz during World War II. He began drawing cartoons in the mid- to late 1950s while completing his national service in the Royal Air Force, and sold his first piece to the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956. Soon after, Steadman moved to London, where he studied at the London College of Printing and East Ham Technical College. By the early 1960s, his cartoons had appeared in the pages of Punch and later, American publications like Scanlan's, which teamed him with journalist Hunter S. Thompson for a 1970 piece on the Kentucky Derby. The union of Thompson's scabrous prose and Steadman's surreal pen-and-ink drawings earned the attention of the counterculture press, most notably Rolling Stone, which dispatched the pair to cover a wide variety of major political and cultural events. Their work together - drug-fueled and marked by abandon, but also unerring in its ability to pinpoint the hidden forces and unsung heroes behind the scenes - would later be compiled in several books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 (1973) and The Rumble in the Jungle (1974), which would form the backbone of the "gonzo journalism" movement. Steadman continued to collaborate with Thompson into the 1980s while also branching into books for children, most notably a series concerning an adventurous mouse that began with 1978's Emergency Mouse. Steadman also produced artwork for the UK-based wine retailer Oddbins, designed British postage stamps to commemorate the return of Halley's Comet in 1985, created the poster for the cult favorite "Withnail and I" (1987) and album covers for Frank Zappa, and provided illustrations for an array of classic books, including a 1985 edition of Treasure Island and a collection of Lewis Carroll's works the following year. In 1989, he tried his hand at opera, penning the oratoria for Richard Harvey's "The Plague and the Moonflower," and designed the sets for the Royal Opera House's 1999 production of "The Crucible." Steadman's extraordinary life and adventures were the focus of the 2012 documentary "For No Good Reason," which was reportedly in production for nearly two decades. Narrated by Johnny Depp, the film devoted equal time to his collaborations with Thompson and the creative process with which he produced his artwork. That same year, he produced The Book of Boids (2012), a collection of illustrations devoted to extinct and endangered birds.