One of the world’s greatest cartoonists, painters and humorists Ralph Steadman has done many types of books. Fiction, children’s stories, guides to wine country, a biography of Sigmund Freud, versions of Alice in Wonderland and of course the seminal work Fear and Loathing.
His latest book focuses on dogs. It is not his first book about dogs, but the first with the obvious title of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs. Full of images spanning 1996-2010 it is a truly fun romp. Almost all of Steadman’s style are here. His gonzo style of sketches with text, his abstract painting, his blots alongside extremely realistic depictions.
There seems to be an attempt at a humorous guide to raising dogs within the 90+ page volume. I find Steadman’s artistic, but sloppy gonzo pen quite difficult to read perfectly, but I admire it from a conceptual sense. The images are very hit or miss, which has been my experience with Steadman on the usual. Some of his caricatures are just shockingly ingenious, while others are head scratching perplexing and not in the good way. I will stare at an image and be completely lost in what he was trying to convey and yet then the next image will be like a bulls-eye shot. Nail on the head perfection of what illustration can provide and offer.
This book I feel definitely fits a much more Steadman niche market than previous endeavors. Dogs are not as universal as wine. Drawings of dogs are not going to be a lot of people’s cup of tea. Especially when most people can not agree on how tea should be served or which are the best kind of leaves. Besides the point, fans of Steadman probably do not agree on what is better; his intrinsic abstract color work or his awkward or his sensible black and white sketch work. I like the pieces that combine all his conceptualizations, techniques and styles into one cohesive image.
The Book of Dogs doesn’t have many of those, but it has plenty that a Steadman fan should appreciate. It is not the greatest choice as an introduction to Ralph though, as it doesn’t truly show off what his delicate mad mind has the ability to create. If you are a fan of Steadman, it is definitely one to add to your collection, if not, go become a fan, so you want to add it.
The US Edition of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs is scheduled to come out May 4, 2011 from Houghton-Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This review is based off an Internet Galley.