Brain Pickings

Legendary Cartoonist Ralph Steadman’s Inkblot Dog Drawings

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Canine humanity from the beloved Gonzo cartoonist.

After the ceaselessly delightful Big New Yorker Book of Dogs, John Homans’s poignant What’s a Dog For?, and Mary Oliver’s sublime Dog Songs, it might be tempting to think the world couldn’t possibly need another book about dogs. But how could one resist such a gem as The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs (public library) by legendary British artist and caricaturist Ralph Steadman, best-known for collaborating with Hunter S. Thompson? His signature inkblot drawings — funny, beautiful, mischievous — tuck into the otherwise playful compendium of canine portraits a few serious, if subtle, jabs at our traditional attitudes. Somewhere between Antisocial Blot Dog and Buddhist Dog Searching for Happiness, we find parts of ourselves and find, above all, the ability to both laugh at them and accept them for all their messy earnestness.

Steadman, as his fans might know, is actually a longtime dog-lover. In the introduction to this book, he writes that he hopes it would present modern readers with a discovery tool for his three previous, out-of-print (though still findable and find-worthy) pooch paeans: Dogs’ Bodies (1977), A Leg in the Wind and other Canine Curses (1982), and No Good Dogs.

The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs is an absolute treat. Complement it with 80 years of canine-themed art from the New Yorker archives, then see Stefan G. Bucher’s wonderful, Steadman-inspired Daily Monster, which is now a make-your-own inkblot monster app.

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