Unleash the gonzo hounds! Steadman’s world of dogs - Features - Art - The Independent

Unleash the gonzo hounds! Steadman’s world of dogs

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Wild-eyed and wily, elegant and terrifying – Ralph Steadman presents Britain's favourite pet, as you've never seen it before Holly Williams on Ralph Steadman's mad mutts

Ralph Steadman is best known as a gonzo cartoonist, the sparring partner of Hunter S Thompson who provided the suitably weird illustrations for Thompson's whacked-out and wasted writings. The British artist's inky sketches, both jagged and loopy, perfectly captured the hallucinations and paranoia of Thompson's drug-fuelled classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, while his acerbic political caricatures have graced the pages of Punch, Private Eye, the New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Less well known is his proclivity for drawing dogs. Illustrated pet books usually veer towards the saccharine; Steadman's latest journey into canine territory, however, is entirely unsentimental. His dogs are ink blots with wild eyes and wagging tails, or sinisterly anthropomorphised in evening dress. They're bug-ridden things slobbering or scratching in frantic lines and spots. Dog dictators, fashion dogs and beer dogs scamper across the pages of his new book, in all their furry or fierce, funny or faithful glory.

Steadman is a long-time dog lover, and he also shares his incisive and utterly un-soppy pearls of wisdom on how to handle your pet pooch. This isn't his first attempt at capturing the spirit of the hound – although they're hard to find now, he has actually penned three previous books about his favourite pets.

"To do another book about dogs in the wake of my three other books about dogs is, I am aware, a trifle excessive," Steadman says. "Well, it would seem so, but then I heard that there are, at least, 50 million dogs in the UK alone and their owners are going to need more vital wisdom about these faithful but stupid creatures that will help them to sustain a sense of humour – not to mention proportion – if they are going to treat their mutts right and give them a half-decent life and, most importantly, see the funny side of their every action."

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