Oi Polloi

Through the Magpie Eye: Ralph Steadman

Published: Wed Mar 13 2013

With Ralph Steadman’s inky scrawlings adorning the cover of the latest issue of Juxtapoz Magazine, we thought we’d whack up a few of our favourite of his fine drawings. His sharp and scratchy illustrations are synonymous with the erratic ramblings of Hunter S. Thompson, but there’s more to Ralph then sketches of men in bucket hats — he’s done drawings for everyone from Nike to Oddbins. His drawings have hardly changed in over 45 years, but if your ink-soaked caricatures aren’t broke, why fix them? And whilst we’re on the subject of Mr Steadman, we actually asked him to do some illustrations for Pica~Post a while ago, but according to his agent he was much too busy. So Ralph, if you’re reading this and you’ve got a window in your schedule, let’s talk numbers.

Here’s what his mate Hunter S. had to say about him in his groundbreaking slab of rambling, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved:

“The rest of the day blurs into madness. The rest of that night too. And all the next day and night. Such horrible things occurred that I can’t bring myself even to think about them now, much less put them down in print. I was lucky to get out at all. One of my clearest memories of that vicious time is Ralph being attacked by one of my old friends in the billiard room of the Pendennis Club in downtown Louisville on Saturday night. The man had ripped his own shirt open to the waist before deciding that Ralph was after his wife. No blows were struck, but the emotional effects were massive. Then, as a sort of final horror, Steadman put his fiendish pen to work and tried to patch things up by doing a little sketch of the girl he’d been accused of hustling. That finished us in the Pedennis.”

“By this time Ralph wouldn’t order coffee; he kept asking for more water. “It’s the only thing they have that’s fit for human consumption,” he explained. Then, with an hour or so to kill before he had to catch the plane, we spread his drawings out on the table and pondered them for a while, wondering if he’d caught the proper spirit of the thing…but we couldn’t make up our minds. His hands were shaking so badly that he had trouble holding the paper, and my vision was so blurred that I could barely see what he’d drawn. “Shit,” I said. “We both look worse than anything you’ve drawn here.” He smiled. “You know—I’ve been thinking about that,” he said. “We came down here to see this teddible scene: people all pissed out of their minds and vomitting on themselves and all that…and now, you know what? It’s us…”