Ralph Steadman

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Ralph Steadman
Me and Ralph Steadman.jpg
Steadman in 2006
Born (1936-05-15) 15 May 1936 (age 82)
Wallasey, Cheshire, England
Known forPainting, drawing, caricatures, cartoons
Website www.ralphsteadman.com

Ralph Steadman (born 15 May 1936) is a Welsh illustrator best known for collaboration and friendship with the American writer Hunter S. Thompson. [1] Steadman is renowned for his political and social caricatures, cartoons and picture books.

Hunter S. Thompson American journalist and author

Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author, and the founder of the gonzo journalism movement. He first rose to prominence with the publication of Hell's Angels (1967), a book for which he spent a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in order to write a first-hand account of the lives and experiences of its members.


Early life

Steadman was born in Wallasey, Cheshire, and brought up in Abergele in North Wales. From a lower middle class background, his father was a commercial traveller and his mother was a shop assistant at T J Hughes in Liverpool. [2] [3] Steadman attended East Ham Technical College and the London College of Printing during the 1960s, doing freelance work for Punch , Private Eye , the Daily Telegraph, The New York Times and Rolling Stone during this time.

Wallasey Town in Merseyside, England

Wallasey is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England, on the mouth of the River Mersey, at the northeastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula. At the 2011 Census, the population was 60,284.

Abergele town in north Wales

Abergele is a small market town and community, situated on the north coast of Wales between the holiday resorts of Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, in Conwy County Borough. Its northern suburb of Pensarn lies on the Irish Sea coast and is known for its beach, where it is claimed by some that a ghost ship has been sighted. Abergele and Pensarn railway station serves both resorts. Abergele is often overlooked due to the popularity of towns in nearby Rhyl, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Conwy.

North Wales unofficial region of Wales, United Kingdom

North Wales is a region of Wales. Retail, transport and educational infrastructure are centred on Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Bangor. It is bordered to the rest of Wales with the counties of Ceredigion and Powys, and to the east by the English counties of Shropshire, Merseyside, and Cheshire.


Collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson

Steadman's film poster for Where the Buffalo Roam . WHERE BUFFALO QD.JPG
Steadman's film poster for Where the Buffalo Roam .

Steadman had a long partnership with the American journalist Hunter S. Thompson, drawing pictures for several of his articles and books. [4] [5] He accompanied Thompson to the Kentucky Derby for an article for the magazine Scanlan's , to the Honolulu Marathon for the magazine Running, and illustrated both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

Kentucky Derby American stakes race for Thoroughbreds, part of the Triple Crown

The Kentucky Derby is a horse race that is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds.

"The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" is a seminal sports article written by Hunter S. Thompson on the 1970 Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, first appearing in an issue of Scanlan's Monthly in June of that year. Though not known at the time, the article marked the first appearance of gonzo journalism, the style that Thompson came to epitomize through the 1970s.

Scanlan's Monthly was a short-lived monthly publication, which ran from March 1970 to January 1971. The publisher was Scanlan's Literary House. Edited by Warren Hinckle III and Sidney Zion, it featured politically controversial muckraking and was ultimately subject to an investigation by the FBI during the Nixon administration. It was boycotted by printers as "un-American" by 1971. According to the publishers more than 50 printers refused to handle the January 1971 special issue Guerilla War in the USA because it appeared to be promoting domestic terrorism. The issue was finally printed in Quebec and in a German translation in Stuttgart. The magazine produced a total of eight issues during its existence.

Steadman has expressed regret at selling the original illustrations for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the advice of his agent to Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner for the sum of $75, a fraction of their significant value. As a result of that transaction Steadman has largely refused to sell any of his original artwork and has been quoted as saying "If anyone owns a Steadman original, it's stolen." While there are original pieces held outside of his archive, they are exceedingly rare. The artist has kept possession of the vast bulk of his original artwork.

Jann Simon Wenner is the co-founder and publisher of the popular culture magazine Rolling Stone, and former owner of Men's Journal magazine. Born in New York City, Wenner graduated from Chadwick School and later attended the University of California, Berkeley. He dropped out, but while at Berkeley he participated in the Free Speech Movement. Wenner, with his mentor Ralph J. Gleason, co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 with the help of a loan from family members and his soon-to-be wife. Later in his career he became one of the founders of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has founded other publications. As a publisher and media figure, he has faced controversy regarding Hall of Fame eligibility favoritism, the breakdown of his relationship with famous gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and allegations that his magazine's reviews were biased.

Steadman appears on the second disc of The Criterion Collection Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas DVD set, in a documentary called Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision , which was made by the BBC in 1978, of Thompson planning the tower and cannon that his ashes were later blasted out of. The cannon was atop a 153-ft. tower of Thompson's fist gripping a peyote button; Thompson demands that Steadman gives the fist two thumbs, "Right now."

The Criterion Collection American home video distribution company

The Criterion Collection, Inc. is an American home video distribution company which focuses on licensing "important classic and contemporary films" and selling them to film aficionados. Criterion is noted for helping to standardize a number of new ideas, such as the letterbox format for widescreen films, adding bonus features, commentary tracks, doing film restoration, and releasing special editions for home video.

<i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i> (film) 1998 film by Terry Gilliam

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 1998 American psychedelic satirical road film adapted from Hunter S. Thompson's novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was co-written and directed by Terry Gilliam, and stars Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, respectively. The film details the duo's journey through Las Vegas as their initial journalistic intentions devolve into an exploration of the city under the influence of psychoactive substances.

Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, also known as Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision, is a documentary film produced by BBC Omnibus in 1978 on the subject of Hunter S. Thompson, directed by Nigel Finch.

Other illustration work

As well as writing and illustrating his own books and Thompson's, Steadman has worked with writers including Ted Hughes, Adrian Mitchell and Brian Patten, and also illustrated editions of Alice in Wonderland , Treasure Island , Animal Farm , the English translation of Flann O'Brien's Gaelic-language classic The Poor Mouth , and most recently, Fahrenheit 451 .

Ted Hughes English poet and childrens writer

Edward James Hughes was an English poet and children's writer. Critics frequently rank him as one of the best poets of his generation, and one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. He served as Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death. In 2008 The Times ranked Hughes fourth on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Brian Patten is an English poet and author. He came to prominence in the 1960s as one of the Liverpool poets, and writes primarily lyrical poetry about human relationships. His famous works include: "Little Johnny's Confessions", "The irrelevant Song", "Vanishing Trick", "Emma's Doll", "Impossible Parents", amongst others.

<i>Alices Adventures in Wonderland</i> book by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a young girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course, structure, characters, and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

Steadman has drawn album covers for numerous music artists, including the Who, Exodus, Frank Zappa and Ambrosia, [6] and the lead banner for the gonzo journalism website GonzoToday.com. [7]

Among the British public, Steadman is well known for his illustrations for the catalogues of the off-licence chain Oddbins.

In 1985, Steadman designed a set of four British postage stamps to commemorate the appearance that year of Halley's Comet.

Steadman has illustrated Will Self's column in The Independent newspaper.

Steadman has contributed to the BirdLife International's Preventing Extinctions programme with an image of critically endangered northern bald ibis. [8]

In 2017 Steadman penned the artwork for Travis Scott and Quavo's joint project Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho . [9]

Beer labels and freedom of speech

Steadman has designed label art for Flying Dog beer and in fact designed the V logo used on Flying Dog's packaging since 1995. The Logo includes an original motto by Steadman: "Good Beer No Shit". Because of this, and because of Steadman's controversial label art for the craft brewery's Road Dog ale and Doggie Style ale, a complaint of obscenity was filed against Flying Dog. The Colorado State Liquor Board then had Flying Dog beers pulled from store shelves. Flying Dog and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Colorado while the displayed motto was changed to “Good Beer No Censorship.” In 2001, the Colorado Supreme Court entered final judgment in favor of Flying Dog, based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, (freedom of speech). [10] [11]

In 2009, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission banned Flying Dog's "Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA" beer, partly for the name and partly for Steadman's label art. In 2015, the 6th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals struck down the ban on first amendment grounds and recommended civil damages against the state of Michigan. [12] [13]

In an article since deleted from its website, Flying Dog stated that its Cardinal "Spiced" Zin' wine was banned in Ohio for Steadman's "disturbing" interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label. [14] [15]

In 2018, Flying Dog received a complaint in the UK about the packaging of its "Easy IPA" reduced-alcohol beer. The complaint partially involved Steadman's label art, depicting a tipsy cartoon character. The Portman Group, a third-party organization which evaluates alcohol-related marketing in the UK, has accepted the complaint's allegation that the artwork “could be seen as encouraging drunkenness”, particularly among minors, and has issued an advisory. [16]

Music and writing

In 1980, Steadman wrote a 57-second song "Sweetest Love (Lament after a Broken Sashcord on a Theme by John Donne)" for an album he was illustrating, Miniatures (A Sequence of Fifty-One Tiny Masterpieces Edited by Morgan Fisher , on Pipe Records. Steadman sang the song to Fisher's harmonium accompaniment. [17]

In 1999, Steadman wrote the lyrics for Richard Harvey's choral album Plague and the Moonflower, on Altus Records. [18]

Also in 1999, Steadman released an anthology album of his "favorite music", on EMI Records, entitled I Like It. Two pieces of his own music are included, "Weird & Twisted Nights" (listed as a collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson and someone named Mc Dean) and "Sweetest Love I Do Not Go" (the same 57-second piece he released in 1980). The album comes with a "songbook", which has text by Steadman. [19]

Hal Willner and Johnny Depp's 2006 anthology of songs, Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys [20] contains two contributions from Steadman. He sings lead on "Little Boy Billee" and sings backing vocals for Eliza Carthy on "Rolling Sea". [21]

In 2011, Steadman began running prose and poetry in Kotori Magazine. [22]

In 2015, Steadman released a 7-inch vinyl single on Philthy Phonograph Records, "The Man Who Woke Up in the Dark" B/w "Striped Paint". [23]


Awards that he has won for his work include the Francis Williams Book Illustration Award for Alice in Wonderland , the American Society of Illustrators' Certificate of Merit, the W H Smith Illustration Award for I Leonardo, the Dutch Silver Paintbrush Award for Inspector Mouse, the Italian Critica in Erba Prize for That's My Dad, the BBC Design Award for postage stamps, the Black Humour Award in France, and several Designers and Art Directors Association Awards. He was voted Illustrator of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1979.

Film documentary

A major documentary about Steadman's career, For No Good Reason , directed by Charlie Paul, played at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in the "Mavericks" programme. [24] The film, reportedly 15 years in the making, played in New York City and Los Angeles in December 2013, and was given US domestic release in spring 2014. [25] The film was in competition for the Grierson Award for Best Documentary at the 2012 BFI London Film Festival. [26]

Personal life

Steadman is a member of the Chelsea Arts Club. [27]

He is a patron of the Association of Illustrators. [28]

Steadman currently lives with his wife in Kent, England.

Selected works

Autobiographical writings

Related Research Articles

Gonzo journalism journalism genre

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word "gonzo" is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire. It has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors.

Flying Dog Brewery

Flying Dog Brewery is a craft brewery located in Frederick, Maryland. Founded in 1990 by George Stranahan and Richard McIntyre, it is the largest brewery in Maryland. As of 2017, Flying Dog is the 28th largest craft brewery in the United States.

<i>The Great Shark Hunt</i> 1979 Book by Hunter S. Thompson

The Great Shark Hunt is a book by Hunter S. Thompson. Originally published in 1979 as Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time, the book is a roughly 600-page collection of Thompson's essays from 1956 to the end of the 1970s, following the rise of the author's own gonzo journalism style as he moved from Air Force and sports beat-writing to straight-ahead political commentary. It is the first of four volumes in The Gonzo Papers series.

<i>Where the Buffalo Roam</i> 1980 American semi-biographical comedy film directed by Art Linson

Where the Buffalo Roam is a 1980 American semi-biographical comedy film which loosely depicts author Hunter S. Thompson's rise to fame in the 1970s and his relationship with Chicano attorney and activist Oscar "Zeta" Acosta. Art Linson directed the picture, while Bill Murray portrayed the author and Peter Boyle portrayed Acosta, who is referred to in the film as Carl Lazlo, Esq. A number of other names, places, and details of Thompson's life are also changed.

<i>The Curse of Lono</i> book by Hunter S. Thompson

The Curse of Lono is a book by Hunter S. Thompson describing his experiences in Hawaii in 1980. Originally published in 1983, the book was only in print for a short while. In 2005 it was re-released as a limited edition. Only 1000 copies were produced, each one being signed by the author and artist Ralph Steadman. Due to Steadman's popularity the book contained a large number of his drawings and paintings. The book is now available as a smaller hardcover edition.


Screwjack & Other Stories is a collection of short stories written by gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson. It was first published by Maurice Neville in 1991 in a limited edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies, then republished in 2000 by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-684-87321-4).

<i>Songs of the Doomed</i> 1990 Book by Hunter S. Thompson

Gonzo Papers, Vol. 3: Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream is a book by the American writer and journalist Hunter S. Thompson, originally published in 1990. This third installment of The Gonzo Papers is a chronologically arranged selection of stories, letters, journals and reporting, allowing readers to see how Thompson's brand of "new journalism," also termed Gonzo journalism, has evolved over the years. It is a collection of Dr. Thompson's essays and articles. This collection is mostly made up of pieces from the Reagan era, but there are also some older stories, including excerpts from his unfinished first novel, "Prince Jellyfish", which is still unpublished, and The Rum Diary, which was not published on its own until 1998.

This is a bibliography of works by American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories—Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, and Me is a book written and illustrated by Ralph Steadman chronicling the odd and very often dangerous times when he met and worked with his friend Hunter S. Thompson. It contains some illustrations by Steadman created at the time of the events and some photos taken by Steadman or Thompson. It was published in 2006 by Heinemann in the UK and, perhaps during the same year, by Harcourt in the US.

Quavo American rapper from Georgia; 1/3 of Migos

Quavious Keyate Marshall, known professionally as Quavo, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as a member of the hip hop and trap music trio Migos. Quavo is related to his fellow Migos members, being Takeoff's uncle and Offset's cousin.

Travis Scott American rapper, singer and record producer from Texas

Jacques Berman Webster II, known professionally as Travis Scott, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. In 2012, Scott signed his first major-label deal with Epic Records. In November of the same year, Scott signed a deal with Kanye West's GOOD Music, as part of its production wing Very GOOD Beats, after appearing on the label's 2012 compilation album Cruel Summer. In April 2013, Scott signed a record deal with T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint.

<i>Gonzo Today</i>

Gonzo Today is an internet-based publication inspired by the writing and reporting style of gonzo journalism popularized by Hunter Thompson. Among other pursuits, Gonzo Today interviews a wide range of notable persons, as noted by the New York Times obituary of poet and artist Heathcote Williams and includes other interview subjects such as artist Clayton Patterson, Ambrosia band members Mary Harris and Burleigh Drummond and former CIA agent and whistleblower, John Kiriakou.

<i>Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho</i> 2017 studio album by Huncho Jack

Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho is the debut studio album by American hip hop duo Huncho Jack, which consists of Travis Scott and Quavo. The album was released on December 21, 2017, for streaming and digital download by Cactus Jack Records, Capitol Records, Epic Records, Grand Hustle Records, Motown and Quality Control Music. It features guest appearances from fellow Migos members Takeoff and Offset, plus additional vocals from Yung Lean, along with production from Murda Beatz, Southside, TM88, Vinylz, Allen Ritter, Cubeatz, Supah Mario, Frank Dukes, Buddah Bless, Felix Leone, OZ, and Cardo, among others. The album's artwork was illustrated by Ralph Steadman.

Huncho Jack is an American hip hop duo formed in 2016 by rappers Travis Scott and Quavo of Migos. The group released its debut studio album Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho on December 21, 2017.

<i>Quavo Huncho</i> 2018 studio album by Quavo

Quavo Huncho is the debut studio album by American rapper and Migos member Quavo. It was released on October 11, 2018, by Capitol Records, Motown and Quality Control Music. The album features guest appearances from other fellow Migos members Takeoff and Offset, plus appearances from 21 Savage, Drake, Saweetie, Madonna, Cardi B, Lil Baby, Travis Scott, Normani, Davido and Kid Cudi. The album was preceded by four singles: "Workin Me", "Lamb Talk", "Bubble Gum" and "Pass Out" featuring 21 Savage.


  1. Dubner, Stephen J. (12 June 2008). "Ralph Steadman Answers Your Questions". Freakonomics.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. Taylor, Laurie (31 May 2007). "Laurie Taylor's interviews: Learning to fly: Laurie Taylor interviews Ralph Steadman". The Rationalist Association. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  3. "In the spotlight: Ralph Steadman". North Wales Weekly News . 2 February 2012.
  4. Perry, Kevin (3 October 2006). "Ralph Steadman interview about The Joke's Over". London: The Beaver.
  5. SUMMER MOVIES; On Filming a Gonzo Vision: A Gonzo Dialogue. The New York Times. 3 May 1998.
  6. "The Album Art of Ralph Steadman". Rateyourmusic.com. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  7. [ dead link ]
  8. "Northern Bald Ibis: Ralph Steadman's view on NBI". Northernbaldibis.blogspot.com. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  9. Nast, Condé. "Travis Scott and Quavo's New Album Art Made By Famed Illustrator Ralph Steadman". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  10. "Ralph Steadman: Flying Dog Artist and First Amendment Crusader". All About Beer. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  11. Townsend, Bob (13 July 2015). "Ralph Steadman and the Gonzo Art of Flying Dog Brewery". The Beer Connoisseur. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  12. Brown, Elizabeth Nolan. "Flying Dog Brewery Wins First Amendment Battle, Uses Proceeds to Promote Free Speech - Hit & Run". Reason.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  13. "Ralph Steadman and the beer that outraged the US". The Independent . 2 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  14. [ dead link ]
  15. "Cardinal Zin bottle label to the banned wine, illustrated by Ralph Steadman - Going Gonzo... - Pinterest - Ralph steadman, Zinfandel wine and Wine names". Pinterest.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  16. "This Flying Dog label is being censored in the United Kingdom, but Flying Dog will keep shipping it". Craft Brewing Business. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  17. "Various - Miniatures (A Sequence Of Fifty-One Tiny Masterpieces Edited By Morgan-Fisher)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  18. "Richard Harvey (2), Ralph Steadman - Plague And The Moonflower". Discogs.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  19. "Ralph Steadman - I Like It". Discogs.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  20. Rogue's Gallery, ANTI- Records, catalog no. 86817-2, Los Angeles & Amsterdam, 2006
  21. "Various - Rogue's Gallery (Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, & Chanteys)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  22. [ dead link ]
  23. "Ralph Steadman - The Man Who Woke Up In The Dark/Striped Paint". Discogs.com. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  24. "For No Good Reason". Toronto International Film Festival. 2013. Archived from the original on 17 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  25. ""For No Good Reason" Trailer – New Documentary on Celebrated Illustrator/Cartoonist Ralph Steadman". themoviebox.net. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  26. "Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton to receive BFI Fellowship". BFI Press. 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  27. "Chelsea Arts Club secretary signs off with "lunatic" plea". London Evening Standard. January 17, 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  28. "The Association of Illustrators". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016.