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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.

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


Early lifeEdit

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.


Collaborations with Hunter S. ThompsonEdit

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.

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.

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."

Other illustration workEdit

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.

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[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 speechEdit

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 writingEdit

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 documentaryEdit

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 lifeEdit

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 worksEdit

Autobiographical writingsEdit

  • Between the Eyes (1984)
  • The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories—Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, and Me (2006)


  1. ^ Dubner, Stephen J. Ralph Steadman Answers Your Questions Freakonomics Blog. 12 June 2008.
  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". 1 May 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ralph Steadman's view on Northern Bald Ibis
  9. ^
  10. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  11. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  12. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  13. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  14. ^ - limited information still showing in the Flying Dog entry appearing in Google search, December 30, 2018
  15. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  16. ^ accessed December 30, 2018
  17. ^ accessed December 29, 2018
  18. ^ accessed December 29, 2018
  19. ^ accessed December 29, 2018
  20. ^ Rogue's Gallery, ANTI- Records, catalog no. 86817-2, Los Angeles & Amsterdam, 2006
  21. ^ accessed December 29, 2018
  22. ^ Steadman's Author page at Kotori
  23. ^ accessed December 29, 2018
  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". 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". Archived from the original on 12 July 2016.

External linksEdit