Monday, 20 July 2015

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Ralph Steadman

…is a British cartoonist, famous for his political & social caricatures. He's won numerous awards, including the Francis Williams Book Illustration Award & the American Society of Illustrators’ Certificate of Merit.

What are you working on at the moment?
Just finishing Nextinction with Ceri Levy about all the birds that are facing extinction and then trying to fill the days with an idea for a new book.

When were you at your happiest?
When my children were born.

What is your greatest fear?
Being aware of the fact that one is dying and being there when it happens. It’s like Woody Allen said, ‘nothing against death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens’.

What is your earliest memory?
I was in the middle of the Blitz. My mother took myself and my sister out of bed and dashed us down to the Anderson Shelter. I particularly remember how slowly she knitted and purled as the bombs fell. It’s probably why I have no time for war.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
If I feel that I have been unreasonable. Sometimes you regret something you said or did.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My mother, who said, ‘I don’t want to be a bother’ but also my art teacher, Leslie Richardson. He was my philosophy teacher as well really.

What is your most treasured possession?
The gathering of items around my neck, as I remember someone said about the slightly broken pottery piece, ‘wear this Ralph, it will ward off evil spirits’. Although they are a bit of a pain to take off at airport security!

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Sniffy shortsightedness.

Q A-Jul17-02-590

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
That I don’t look like Cary Grant!

What is your favourite book?
The Poor Mouth by Flann O’Brien.

What is your favourite film?
Inherit The Wind.

And your favourite piece of music?
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The opening is so uplifting.

What is your favourite meal?
Going to Ozgur, a Turkish restaurant in Tenterden, where we have been going for 20 years. We always have mezze.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
They’ve already been!

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
My old headmaster said, when he saw me sweeping the floors of Woolworths in Colwyn Bay, ‘Look at you, sweeping the streets and you could have been something if you had stayed at De Havilland Aircraft Company!’

Do you believe in aliens?
As far as I’m concerned if there are aliens I wish them to be friends.

What is your secret vice?
Watching animal behaviour. It’s extraordinary watching them doing something and anticipating what will happen next. Maybe that’s why I got so intrigued with drawing birds for the books Extinct Birds and now Nextinction.

Do you write thank-you notes?
Yes.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘It’s all me eye and Peggy Martin!’ or ‘2 penneth of fruit and not too many watermelons!’

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
No wars – if we must have riots, let it be with custard pies and not guns.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
My inside leg measurement is 33 inches.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.’ It’s a Haiku saying.

Nextinction, by Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy, is published by Bloomsbury, priced £35. Ralph and Ceri are appearing at the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall on 1 August: www.porteliotfestival.co.uk


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