Book Review: Ralph Steadman: A Life In Ink by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman: A Life In Ink by Ralph Steadman. Chronicle, 2020. 9781797203003. 320pp.

“It seems I have done a lot of pictures over my life, and pictures explain quite a lot about life that words do not.”
— Ralph Steadman, at the end of the book, in a short statement opposite a recent illustration of himself in a surgical mask.

At the beginning there’s an introduction by Steve Crist, then an interview with Steadman. Along with these are photos of the artist, both at work and posing his ass off. The rest of the book is drawings, mostly chronological, along with a fair amount of collage. There are titles and dates below each, and some have a quote from Steadman, usually about the work. The book has a great design in that these words are totally ignorable — you can just look at the pictures.

It has a few bits from work I remembered — Alice in Wonderland, Animal Farm, and assorted pictures of Hunter S. Thompson (including one of Thompson as a woman). There are hundreds of pages more, including quite a few that have word balloons and look suspiciously like comics. I like the images that fit tidily onto a single oversized page — it’s annoying to lose some of the art in the gutter — but overall this is an amazing collection. Of the pieces I don’t remember having seen before, many of my favorites had bookish subjects like the Frankfurt Book Fair and Fahrenheit 451, though I also loved the drawings of characters from Breaking Bad and the creepy black and white drawing of Disneyland mascots, which Steadman describes as “sinister.”

The paper is thick, the reproductions are marvelous, and it’s worth checking this out from your public library even if you don’t feel inclined to buy a copy for yourself.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.