Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Art Documentary "For No Good Reason"

My art journal homage to the art of Ralph Steadman after watching the documentary "For No Good Reason"

I previously devoted an entire blog post to "Movies About Artists" and in that post I promised to write an artist documentaries list later (check out the Top 10 Documentaries Every Art Lover Should Watch). I have not YET made that list of documentaries but "For No Good Reason" would definitely be at the very top! (Presently available on Netflix)

My Blog post: Movies About Artists
Over the past weekend I watched  it twice three times! The documentarians are  Lucy and Charlie Paul (of http://itchfilm.com/) and they are brilliant.( Check the link at the bottom of this page to a 45 minute interview with the two of them).

This documentary took fifteen years to make and was released in 2014 and it features artist Ralph Steadman and Johnny Depp. Here's the trailer:

I didn't think I knew much about Ralph Steadman before watching this film but I was familiar with his art and the work of his notorious friend and "partner in crime", gonzo journalist  Hunter S. Thompson.

What I Loved

I loved watching Ralph demonstrate his art technique in the documentary. What a rare opportunity to observe his unique creative process! I adored his sketch of dogs and in particular the scene of his black labrador retriever posing for him ever so patiently. (I incorporated that particular event into an art journal page intended to pay homage to Ralph.)

I loved seeing all scenes shot at Ralph's home studio in Kent, England (and did I see the name Tunbridge Wells flash by on the screen?) My family roots go back to England and I have distant cousins still living in this wonderful section of the world and I have never been there, so I thoroughly enjoyed all footage shot there!

Other points of interest for me were his Polaroid art-making process (manipulating the photograph while it was still developing); his early trip to New York City (a city I love deeply); and his serendipitous encounter and lifelong friendship with Hunter S. Thompson.

I also loved that Johnny Depp (a big fan/friend of both Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman) is a presence throughout the film, listening to Raph reminisce and admiring Ralph's artistic genius.

I found it incredibly interesting that Ralph has kept every single piece of original artwork that he has ever made. Only his prints are available for purchase! Visit his website http://www.ralphsteadman.com/ to be directed to his prints http://www.ralphsteadmanprints.com/

 What I Wondered

I reflected on how Ralph's story could never be a woman artist's story. To meet up with a complete stranger (Hunter) across the ocean and follow him around on his drunken, drug-induced meanderings has never been the basis for any biography of any woman artists that I know of. I wondered if there was any female equivalent for Ralph Steadman that I hadn't heard of yet? If you know of one, please leave me her name in the comment section below.

How exciting it would be to follow a writer around and sketch while living their gonzo journalism manifesto:
  1. Find a story
  2. Immerse yourself in it
  3. Become the story
This seminal quote at the beginning of the film stayed with me:
 "I really thought that what I would do if I ever really learned to draw, is that I would try to change the world."
In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and a world with headlines about Donald Trump as the next potential President of the United States of America, I wondered, "what must Ralph be thinking about our changing world today"?

A biography written by the British Cartoon Archive reported that in the early 1980s, "Steadman was now losing his faith in "the honesty of socialism, or at least in the practitioners of socialism", and also his interest in political cartooning."

"When I began", Steadman once told an interviewer resignedly, "I thought I could change the world": "It's much worse now than when I started, so I haven't done much of a job."

There seems to be so much sadness in that statement and there is a sense of melancholy in the film too, especially when Ralph is talking about Hunter's final days.

Generally Ralph comes across in the documentary as such a sweet guy and I had difficulty reconciling that persona with some of the angry and visceral pieces of art appearing in the film.

 In 2013 Steadman explained to one interviewer: "People have said, 'I thought you’d be a nasty piece of work because you’re so dark and trenchant', and I’ve said, 'No I’m not, I’ve got rid of it - it’s all on paper.'"

 Greg King writes of Ralph: 
"Even at the age of 76, Steadman has an unpretentious approach to his art, and he is still enthusiastic about his process and seems surprised at what he creates from scratch. And there is a melancholy touch as Steadman wonders how his work will be remembered. Steadman also talks about the conflict between art and commerce, and seems disdainful of the economic aspect of his career."
When Ralph once asked Hunter S. Thompson why they were planning to do something in particular, Hunter responded "For No Good Reason" the documentary's title.

That is the same answer that I would give if you asked me why did I create this blog post and why did I dedicate an art journal page to Ralph Steadman? For no good reason.

What I Hope

I do hope that you will take some time to watch this great documentary......for no good reason.....


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