Friday, February 4, 2011

This illustration is a piece by Ralph Steadman, the notorious “gonzo artist” companion of Hunter S. Thompson. What I really love about Steadman’s work is the amount of energy he’s able to convey. The splattered ink, confident messy lines, and selective use of color give his work the feeling of quickly drawn impressions and brutal honesty. Everything Steadman does looks pretty much like this, but though his style is consistent, and has been for years, it manages to avoid seeming contrived. This particular illustration, which refers to the protest at Chicago’s Democratic National Convention in 1968, captures the chaos of the scene brilliantly. Panicked eyes, reaching hands, a flurry or billy clubs, and barely human, sneering cops are crowded into the frame and seem ready to tumble out. It’s easy to imagine from this what people who were at this event might have experienced, and it is that ability to create understanding and empathy, more than a show of technical skill, that makes an illustration great.


  1. Ralph Steadman is a personal favorite of mine, along with this specific piece great choice. Interesting tid-bit, upon meeting Hunter S. Thompson at the kentucky derby to showcase his illustrating skills and basically be interviewed to become his full time illustrator he forgot all of his drawing materials in the cab he rode in. Therefore he had to sketch for Dr. Thompson with nothing but eyeliner pencils, lipstick, and some other makeup a woman let him borrow. The story ends with Steadman completing 20 or 30 sketches and getting completely drunk with H.S.T and also getting the job, from there on out he kept the job.

  2. Oh, for the love of... Now I'm going to go and read "Fear and Loathing..." again, and I promised myself I wouldn't for at least another month...