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How Ralph Steadman got his trademark style
"My style got angrier and occasionally blots would appear"
 real 28k

Ralph Steadman on Little.com
"It's not so malevolent as in drawings for Gonzo art"
 real 28k

On children's art
"I'd love to be able to draw like a child sometimes"
 real 28k

On political satire
"I wanted to be a social commentator"
 real 28k

On drink and drugs
"You really do kid yourself that you're doing well"
 real 28k

On the Asylum foundation
"Kids in care often have an inability to express themselves"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 August, 2000, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
Steadman goes dotty
Ralph Steadman
Ralph Steadman: A writer of "wayward" stories
By BBC News Online's Jatinder Sidhu

Acclaimed caricaturist Ralph Steadman wants his latest book to encourage a "wayward spirit" in children.

The 64-year-old, who jokingly styles himself the "patron saint of demonic graffiti", wonders if he might inspire children to splatter white walls and furniture.

"Kids can have a lot of fun making dots," he says.

His new book Little.com is a children's story in which the famed artist captures the spirit of drawing like a child.

The humble dot

A humble dot - a bit part player in the language of the world wide web - has a life of its own hidden away in a cyberspace fairy-land.

The dot gets the chance to escape when computers are switched off, and its anarchic and playful spirit gives rise to some of Steadman's most energetic drawings.

Little.com
Little.com has the same spirit as the Fear and Loathing drawings
The dot has played a part in his work for a long time.

"As a younger man I was going to change the world. But the world got worse, my style got angrier and occasionally blots would appear.

"Since they looked natural so I would slam down the brush or pen into the paper and it would give me this wonderful pattern of blots. It suited my style," he says.

So the dots, scratches and blemishes were incorporated into his pictures as the beginnings of eyes and faces, for example.

Steadman's minimalist character, "dot", assumes all kinds of shapes depending on the random blot from which it is improvised.

In one sketch, the dot refuses tea but drinks a cup of ink, ending up squelching around drunk and making quite a mess.

Steadman hopes he will inspire children, just as they inspire him.

"I think kids can get from the book something they'd like to do for themselves," he says.

Gonzo art

Amongst Steadman's best work are his illustrations for journalist Hunter S Thompson's work, especially 1972's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was famously fuelled by the writer's death-defying cocktail of drugs and alcohol.

Ralph Steadman
Ralph Steadman's Dr Gonzo
Steadman's sketches captured the haze through which Thompson saw events.

He also reflected Thompson's highly subjective opinions about his subjects - producing contorted, frenzied and monstrous caricatures.

Steadman admits he was "partially drunk" when he produced some of the drawings, but says he quickly found that drugs didn't work for him.

"As Thompson himself said, 'I've never advocated drugs and drink for anyone - but it works for me'," he says.

He has since distanced himself entirely from the excesses of those days.

'Wayward spirit'

Steadman says his latest work has the same "wayward spirit" as Fear and Loathing - despite being aimed at a very different audience.

"Little.com is different because I'm not so malevolent in it," he adds.

"A children's book is small world that is large enough for a child's mind at bed-time."

Ralph Steadman
Steadman: "I'd like people to be inspired to have a will of their own"
After 40 years, Steadman finds himself mellowing rather than becoming more cynical.

He is teaming up with journalist Ian Hargreaves to take over a former asylum building in Haverfordwest, west Wales, for use as an art college-cum-museum housing all of Steadman's work, to be called the Asylum Foundation.

"It's called an art foundation, but it won't be for art itself, it would be for kids brought up in care.

"Getting to the age of 16 they can enter this foundation for two or three years, get over the awkward period and try to stand on their own two feet," he explains.

Steadman and Hargreaves are still in negotations to take the building over and secure funding.

But he hopes it will do some good for the local community as well as for young people.

He says, "My work could be of some kind of inspiration to kids in care who aren't able to express themselves."

Little.com is published by Andersen Press, priced 9.99.

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