Kurt Vonnegut called Ralph Steadman “the most gifted and effective existential artist of my time.” And Jonny Depp once said, “Ralph is … so nice. And yet, at the same time, he is … a psychopath.” Steadman proudly admits it himself to Co.Design: “I am just NORMALLY WEIRRD!”
Now, our favorite 77-year-old psychopath has released a 448-page monograph of his work: Proud Too Be Weirrd, a manic, ink-splattered journey through his studio. The world presented here boasts characters as cracked and demented as a mushroom-tripping Alice in Wonderland, “plague demons,” a greyhound dog in an orange silk dress, and the giant reptiles in pearls made famous in his drawings for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
“The Lizard Lounge is one of my favorite and WEIRRDEST drawings!” Steadman tells Co.Design in an email, through a press person. “I believe that most people are WEIRRD in their own way. Why should it be otherwise? We are not sheep after all, but many try to be–now THAT is WEIRRD!!!”
“It was so organic, a stream of consciousness!” Steadman says of the process of making this monolithic book. “It was a natural collaboration between myself and the editor/publisher, Steve Crist. Most projects have seemed so natural to me.”
Apparently, Steadman’s longtime partner in crime, the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, once said, “Don’t write, Ralph, you’ll bring shame on your family.” Steadman shot back, “I can write better than you can draw!” Hard to impress as Thompson was, Thompson soon admitted to feeling threatened, saying, “Okay, I’m sorry, it’s beautiful gibberish.” And it turns out Steadman’s words are about as twisted and darkly hilarious as his drawings. Alongside the art in this monograph is not so much a narration as a series of stunningly typeset shrieks and rambles. Steadman comments on everything from how “bitches are invariably noisier than male dogs” to how “Creativity is both a joy and a disease” to his imagined redrafting of the U.S. Constitution. (The Ninth Amendment: “The people’s will is paramount. There is no other way of proceeding.”)
“Incidentally I hate the word ‘illustration.’ Sounds like some kind of diagram,” Steadman writes in the book. It’s true that the word is too precious and bland a descriptor for his drawings, which seem capable of electrocuting viewers who stare too long.
Despite his anarchic artistic persona, a little Internet stalking reveals Steadman has a wholesome grandfatherly side: “Fantastic fish pie cooked by 8 year old grandson for his Cubs Chef badge – YUM!” he recently tweeted.
Proud Too Be Weirrd is out now from Ammo books. You can buy it here.
[Images: Courtesy of AMMO]