Ralph Steadman

November 16, 2009

The Joke's Over

The Joke's Over

Date of Birth:
Born on May 15th, 1936 in Wallasey, Cheshire

The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson and his Gonzo journalism greatly influenced Ralph Steadman’s illustration. Gonzo journalism, which is a form of ‘fictional’ journalism, which places the journalist in the story using the first person. The journalist blends fact with fiction, favors style over accuracy and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context to the topic. This is not dissimilar from Steadman’s illustration, which provided a visual representation of Gonzo journalism. [2]

In 1954 Ralph Steadman worked at McConnell’s Advertising Agency. Steadman soon took a course in cartooning while he was conducted his National Service in the RAF. [3] He also studied art part time with Leslie Richardson at East Ham Technical College from 1959 to 1966, at the London College of Printing, and Sussex University. [4]

Works of Note:

Steadman’s first printed cartoon appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956. It dealt with the Nasser and Suez crisis.

Steadman teamed up with Hunter S. Thompson to create the memorable illustrations for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman continued a relationship with Thompson and illustrated several of his novels.

47 pen and ink illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s 1968 British edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Illustrator Miscellany:
Raised in Towyn, North Wales

Illustrated labels for Flying Dog Brewery and Cardinal “Spiced” Zin’ wine, which is banned in Ohio for the “disturbing” interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label. [5]

Contrary to popular belief Steadman was not the unnamed passenger in the car in Fear and Loathing. [6]

He has published three books; The Lives of Sigmund Freud, Leonardo da Vinci and The Big I Am, the story of God.

Examination of Materials:
Steadman is know best for his work with pen and brush ink work, which is what he used for the cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as the inside illustrations. For the color transition He might have used acrylic paint or watercolor (both typical mediums for him). Steadman also used oils, etching, silkscreen and college in other works.

Style Analysis

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Steadman uses haphazard splatters and quick energetic lines in inking to create the figure ground relationship. He uses simple illusion of landscape by hatched lines closer and closer together as they approach the horizon line. The background is simply a smooth transition from a desaturated pink to more of a yellow. His brutal style matches Thompson’s Gonzo journalism to a key and their art forms will always be associated with one another.

– Cameron Loughrey, Spring 2009



[1] Flying Dog Brewery, “Ralph Steadman Bio.,”


[2] Signature Illustration, “Ralph Steadman & Hunter S. Thompson,”


[3] “Ralph Steadman Biography,” British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent


[4] “Ralph Steadman Bio…”

[5] ibid

[6] ibid


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