A long-time fan of Ralph Steadman, I still encounter works of his that have somehow missed my radar. Published in 1995, a special edition of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (currently out of print) features 100 full-color and half-tone illustrations by the artist. Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings was able to find a copy of this rare edition, citing quotations from Orwell’s “The Freedom of the Press,” the proposed but unpublished preface to the original “Animal Farm” that accompanies Steadman’s raw and gritty illustrations.
Steadman has long been known as a Gonzo artist, a reputation due in large part to his long partnership with Hunter S. Thompson, but has also illustrated other books in his signature inkblot style including, “Alice in Wonderland,” “Treasure Island,” and most recently, “Fahrenheit 451,” in addition to drawing everything from political caricatures to wine and beer labels. NPR notes that he’s even written an opera libretto.
Of his fluid style, Steadman says, “You don’t pencil in anything; you just start going and see where it leads you. It’s an adventure, a little journey. Every drawing is a kind of journey. There’s an organic quality that is quite potent, you know. You surprise yourself, and that’s quite nice.”
A documentary about Steadman narrated by Johnny Depp, titled “For No Good Reason,” is set to release later this year. The film’s director, Charlie Paul, says, “I was concerned that Ralph’s art would be the man and that I’d end up trying to make a film with someone who had this kind of aggressive attitude towards the world. But Ralph is such a lovely, warm and generous man, and yet he goes to his table and creates these pieces of art which are dangerous and, to be perfectly honest, quite upsetting sometimes.” ( via brain pickings and npr)