Ralph Steadman

You don’t so much commission Ralph Steadman as unleash him. The art direction is implicit in the decision to ask him for artwork. He is a force of nature. His acceptance of a commission is de facto an endorsement of a project – that adds value beyond even the illustration itself.
 

And I send my best wishes to the lame art director who tells him what, and how to draw. Actually no I don’t send best wishes. They would be foolish. But I may send flowers as commiseration.

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An example is at the top of the page. My adjectives would be, what is the word I am looking for? Pointless, that’s the one.

His work has often been a rage against the system. A wildly exuberant hand and an acute, almost feral, venal eye. His symbiotic, yet combative, relationship with Gonzo writer, Hunter S. Thompson for Rolling Stone magazine is legendary. One of the great hoots being the way each blamed the other for the excesses of their exploits. And his biography is all over the web.

My simple prompt for this blog is just an urge to celebrate this man who has been a part of my life for such a long time. I could relate the time he burst into Stanley Studios demanding “Where’s my fucking artwork?” Not because he thought we had any – but he did feel publishers were not returning his originals as they should – but mainly because he was living in Parsons Green. And we were the nearest. Lunch at 11 Park Walk calmed all. Fuelled by his mockery of his own wrath and significant amounts of Barolo.

I could tell you of his soliloquy on how The History of Civilization all began with the Welsh. “The first man was a Welshman, Homo Boyo. And his wife, Homo Womo. Like a side of beef with arms she was . . .” But Ralph would probably defend his copyright but arriving with a Howitzer and obliterating my cats.

I am tempted to show you a photograph of his spare room. When working on I, Leonado he took to painting The Last Supper on the wall to get under the skin of the painter, hands on. When completed he changed all the bed-linen to white and pushed the bed against the painting so the pillows became the tablecloth of Jesus and his disciples. “That’ll stop visitors getting up to any hanky-panky!” OK, here it is. It is called The Last Cuppa.

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You can look for yourself for Ralph’s antics destroying an iphone with an icepick live on stage. Technology infuriates him. Only mention any kind of Social Media if you wish to see your giblets up close and personal. So may tales and yet I have to tell you he has a big heart, can be the very best company and the world is a better, more vital place, with Ralph in it. he work is full of passion. The man cares. He should be knighted. Go on, Queen and Government, I dare you . . .

I have only spilled a few beans here. And, for your patience Dear Reader, I end with a glimpse of personal friendship. I think of it as belligerent affection, and love it for that. A letter received when we moved into a house in London.

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http://www.ralphsteadmanartcollection.com/ or follow on Twitter (A family member I suspect!) @SteadmanArt

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16 Comments

  • Laura Andrew

    Love the thought of that envelope traveling through the postal system! Have always loved the bravery of Ralph Steadman’s work.

  • Neil Fox

    Another fantastic post my friend and as you know, one very close to my heart.It’s sometimes nauseating reading posts where one talks about knowing famous/celebrated people they know but due to the subject and author both being magical this becomes an inclusive, incisive piece. As a long time admirer of the Thompson/Steadman double act I read this piece with fascination, fanboy glee and on seeing the personal letter not a little jealousy, that soon subsided because that honour is hard earned. Your understanding of the man as an artist is second to none and I loved reading about working with him.Steadman for me is a unique spirit, an artist who is fierce and primal with a misleading simplicity that dares you to look deeper at the darkness and complexity within. It’s violent, and passionate. He screams at you and his art spills over, seeping into everything it touches and comments on. Once his ink has rendered something, that association is burned into eternity. I intend to own an original at some point, for that feeling. Thank you for sharing this insight, this wonderful small window into the life of yourself and one of my heroes.Peace, Neil

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    Neil, it’s great to have an energetic response. Fear of name-dropping stopped me from blogging for such a long time. But the fact is these are my experiences.Working with great people is priceless and I love sharing some of the camp-fire stories. Especially with such larger-than-life characters as Ralph!

  • Neil Fox

    You shouldn’t be fearful. It never feels like name-dropping but the vital sharing of the creative process. It’s vital, vital, vital that we share – knowledge, experiences, hopes, all of it.Keep blogging my friend. I’ll be reading.

  • Anita Kunz

    Although I do love the Fear and Loathing work, what I love more about Ralph is his compassion and concern for the human condition. He’s the only artist who as far as I know has posted the declaration of human rights on his website. I know it pains him greatly to see the direction we’re taking as a culture and even more so as a species. His work is profound on a number of levels. I’ve been an enormous fan of his work since I was young artist, and I’d love to see him recognized as the cultural icon that he is by receiving the knighthood!

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    I think that’s right Anita. Those savage pen-stokes show passion, massive energy and concern for the human condition. Just imagine the wake-up call he could give to the House of Lords.

  • Neil Fox

    Utterly agree, I never meant to suggest that primal scream of an artistic voice was not filled with hope and anger and demand for change. That’s why I love the Thompson work, because as a Writer Thompson was the same; a patriot, a humanist and someone who desperately wanted change and for the evils that rule the world to begone.That’s what I meant by the misleading simplicity. On the surface it’s just violent and aggressive, but at heart it’s something else.

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    An e-mail arrived in reponse – From Ralph: “YOU SWINE!!! Taking my name in vain!! GARY!! I will get you when you least expect it!! Be thankful that I am a lovely kind and generous!! Oh! GARY!! You are too generous with your lovely words. Bless your heart!! What you said was wonderful- but I had to write that you said I was so FIERCE!!!So that was my fierce bit for no good reason other than to pull your leg!! Hope you and Sandy are doing well- and do visit you ever come to KENT!!I am still so busy- I hope you are too!!!Much Love- and from ANNA!RALPHZXXXX”

  • Gary Day-Ellison

    More from Ralph! Love this man . . .”Dear GaryDid I already answer you on his? I am getting so forgetful these days- and I hope you are not getting too arthritic!!! You can do what you like with my response to your kind words! We should ALL stick together fru fick’n’fin!!!!All I can hear at the moment are bloody fireworks three nights in a row! I think they should make it ONE night- the 5th- and then move on- or it is no longer remember, remember- the 5th of November- etc!!!We went to Johnny Depp’s premiere of The Rum Diary on Thursday night directed by Bruce Robinson(Withnail & I) etc. After the film(Not Bad- but SAD!!) we all went to a reception at some posh hotel in Kensington and I walked towards the Reception Area for guests- and the bloke on the door said sorry- this is the VIP lounge only! Luckily Bruce was right behind me and he damn near exploded!! ‘Do you know who you are talking to???’ ‘No, Sir’ said the Doorman. Bruce replied ‘ This is one of our most important Artists in the History of the World!!!’ ‘Sorry , Sir!! Begging your pardon, Sir!!’ He backed off- he was only doing his duty. Dear Bruce is as lovely as ever. They let us through. I gave Johnny a Postcard of Paul Guillaume who was a great Art Collector. His collection resides at L’Orangerie in Paris- and the painting was by Modigliani and is the spitting image of Johnny. I thought – BINGO!! – but I haven’t heard back from Johnny yet- so it may be BUNGO!!!! He was down here at our place a month ago- and it might just appeal. Who knows, Gary?? It might just interest him- and he does live in France.C’est la Vie eh??You keep well, OK?? and I will try to remain FIERCE!!!Lots of Love to you and Sandy and DO come here if you ever feel like it!!WARMEST- LOVELIESTRALPHZXXXXX”

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