Ralph Steadman, artist & illustrator: 'I taught Terry Gilliam more than I'd ever want to know'

The cartoonist famously collaborated with American author Hunter S Thompson on 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' and has illustrated editions of 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Treasure Island' and 'Animal Farm'

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In the kitchen. I can see the tips of the trees beyond the studio rooftops, through the kitchen window which is known as the nature window. I see a wonderful small bronze sculpture of a roaring lion that I shaped myself in clay and had it cast.

What are you currently reading?

What Nietzsche taught us, but I can't remember the exact title. I was reading Man Against Aging by Robert S De Ropp. It was a bit silly.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

Kurt Vonnegut because he was a terrific writer. Slaughterhouse Five was about 5 men and they sheltered in Dresden, down in this refrigerator, below ground, and when they finally emerged after a few days all they saw was a completely flattened city. He wanted to be a painter and artist but he was a better writer than he was an artist. He wrote about what he was doing and what he had done.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's my little office, attached to my studio. It has a venetian blind to keep out the sun. There are books including HL Mencken, the works of Mark Twain and a print from Terry Gilliam – apparently I taught him more than I would ever want to know.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Mr Chips [from Goodbye Mr Chips by James Hilton] because I think he was gentle, forgiving, idiosyncratic and positively human. He stood up to the bullies and I don't like bullies. I hate over-opinionated people. I don't like gangs although I understand the inevitability of it.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Picasso. He did everything. He was the greatest cartoonist of the 20th Century.

'Nextinction', by Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy, is published by Bloomsbury