Most Americans know English artist Ralph Steadman through the splatter-mad satiric illustrations he did for Hunter S. Thompson’s books and articles, most famously 1971’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
That was certainly the case with me when I attended a Steadman (splatter) signing in London in 1986. But from there I came to love Steadman for his acidic political, social, and artistic radicalism–almost in spite of his place in the HST Gonzo mythos. Here was an artist who kept moving, searching, and changing, all while still poking, prodding, and attacking.
The new Steadman documentary For No Good Reason from husband-and-wife team Charlie (director) and Lucy (producer) Paul naturally explores the expected debauched Thompson tales, but it also focuses on Steadman’s work as a political and social cartoonist-commentator in the ’60s before and the ’90s after the Hunter adventures.
Best of all, Charlie Paul set up a digital camera above Steadman’s work table a decade ago and collected, frame by frame, stop-action documentation of the artist’s controlled-madness painting and drawing style.
The result is a fascinating look at how Steadman creates intricately layered artistic order and meaning out of what often starts as a wild splash of ink on the page.
For No Good Reason is hosted by Johnny Depp, who has taken on the role–with genuine devotion, it seems–of the Keeper of Hunter’s Gonzo Legacy, and it features interviews with folks like Jann Wenner, Terry Gilliam, and Richard E. Grant, as well as plenty of archival footage of Steadman and Thompson. But at the documentary’s heart is Steadman’s art–the film not only beautifully captures his process but it lays out his legacy, even in the face of the artist’s own doubts.
I sat down with Charlie and Lucy Paul in Chicago a few weeks ago to talk about their film and our shared love of Ralph Steadman’s work.
For No Good Reason opens today in select theaters. Read more »