Ralph Steadman (born Wallasey, May 15, 1936) is a British cartoonist and caricaturist.
Born in Wallasey, Cheshire, and brought up in Towyn, North Wales, Steadman attended Ysgol Emrys Ap Iwan (high school), Abergele, East Ham Technical College and the London College of Printing and Graphic Arts during the 1960s, doing freelance work for Punch, Private Eye, the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times and Rolling Stone during this time.
Steadman is renowned for his political and social caricatures and cartoons and also for illustrating a number of picture books. 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.
Steadman had a long partnership with the American journalist Hunter S. Thompson, drawing pictures for several of his articles and books. 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. Much of Steadman’s artwork revolves around caricatures of Thompson: bucket hats, cigarette holder and aviator sunglasses.
Steadman appears on the second disc of the Criterion Collection Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas DVD set, in a documentary of Thompson planning the tower and cannon that his ashes were later blasted out of. The cannon was atop a 153ft tower of Thompson’s fist gripping a peyote button; Thompson demands that Steadman gives the fist two thumbs, “Right now.”
As well as writing and illustrating his own books and Thompson’s, Steadman has worked with writers including Ted Hughes and Brian Patten, and also illustrated editions of Alice In Wonderland, Treasure Island and Animal Farm.
Among the British public, Steadman is well known for his illustrations for the catalogues of the off-licence chain Oddbins. He also designed the labels for Flying Dog beer and Cardinal ‘Spiced’ Zin’, which was banned in Ohio for Steadman’s “disturbing” interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label.
Steadman also illustrates Will Self’s column in The Independent newspaper. Johnny Depp’s anthology of songs, “Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys” (2006) surprisingly contains two contributions from Steadman. He sings lead on “Little Boy Billee”, and sings backing vocals on Eliza Carthy’s song “Rolling Sea”. Johnny Depp played Hunter S. Thompson in the film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.