When people talk about Gonzo as a style or a form of aesthetics in its artistic sense, most of the conversation revolves around Gonzo writing, made famous by Hunter.S.Thompson through the article [The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved] and later with [Fear and loathing in Las Vegas]. This was again turned into a movie by the same name, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.
There is however a major influence in the form of artwork to visualize the Gonzo style of writing, the masthead of this art in its illustrative form is Ralph Steadman. It all began in 1970 and a seemingly random encounter between two menn.
Steadman describes the encounter with Hunter as follows –“What i in fact had done, without even realizing it, was scored a bulls eye, first time on my first visit to america. I mean, i met up with the one man i needed to meet in all the world, in the whole of america to work with.” -Ralph Steadman – For no good reason (Documentary).
The art of Ralph Steadman has been, and still is, a source of inspiration for me as an illustrator. It is also something that i have tried to replicate digitally and in different non-traditional mediums.
This has however proven nigh impossible as the organic flow of inc and spatters are difficult to create digitally without making it look static or non-organic. This basically means when working with these techniques in digital media it tends to look very fake, you can often see that it is not a “real” ink splash when studying the piece. Especially if you have used the same spatter or brush in more than one place on a given illustration.
Despite tremendous improvements in digital software and methods used in digital art over the past decade, it still fails (somewhat) to capture, what i think is, the essence of what the organic and traditional mediums can create, often called “happy accidents”.
This however does not mean that it is entirely impossible to create something organic digitally. It just takes some creativity and knowledge of the different mediums. This is why it is good to know how to create artwork with traditional mediums, even if you work digitally most of the time.
Steadman`s work is a good example of what could only be described controlled chaos, something which is counter intuitive in itself. However he has created an aesthetic and his own art form with it and in turn made it his “style”.
He has used this style to create journalistic and political illustrations, something that it is well suited for, as the illustrations gain a certain “punch” to them. Harnessing the anger and frustrations we all (should) feel sometimes regarding politics and social issues.
The illustrations in this post is my attempt at studying and creating something by mimicking this art style. Even though the art work have been digitized, it was initially created with traditional mediums using a paint brush, acrylics and ink. The letters where then in turn vectored and put to use digitally.
Every spatter and letter was created manually one by one. The main image was then hand drawn using Adobe illustrator and vector graphics. This means the image can be resized for different uses without the quality of its lines being diminished. It also gives the illustration a very crisp and non-shaded quality.
Vectors do not handle shadows or gradients the same way an illustration created in Adobe Photoshop or even traditional media does. Illustrator is very “Yes – No” or rather “Black or any other colour” without blending. Think of it like working in paints and blending contra working with hard inks in traditional media.
The illustration was then put together with the type i managed to create. All vectorized.
The compilation of the final work ended up being the illustration along with a type logo. It took quite some time and many itterations to create the type itself, but the end result was interesting to me. I also learned something new and made it a part of my process for future work.
Thank you for reading – J