In the NYT Science Times on Tuesday, an enthusiastic appreciation (“New Book Brings Joyful Splash of Plumage, Real and Imagined”, by James Gorman) of Ralph Steadman’s new book, on birds:
A book of birds, real and otherwise, hatched from the imagination of the artist Ralph Steadman, is bound to be a feast for the eyes. How wonderful to discover that it is a feast of words, as well.
… Mr. Steadman and his co-author, Ceri Levy, in “Extinct Boids” (being published Oct. 30 by Bloomsbury …) [have created] a thrilling book of surprised, silly, sullen, sad, extinct, real and unreal birds.
The book is focussed on extinct birds, with a considerable number of imaginary birds plus a few living real birds.
Two of the imaginary birds, the South Eastern Tellychat and the Rotten Pink Scrawl:
The (common) names of the creatures are wonderful, as are their expressions: Steadman’s birds express emotions, have intentions and opinions, make plans, and so on, in the tradition of fanciful creatures (and plants) invented by artists and writers. Edward Lear and James Thurber are figures in this tradition, in which names (common or taxonomic or both), drawings, and descriptions work together to make portraits that are both perceptive and hilarious. A little more from Gorman on Steadman’s birds:
They come in rich color, some serene and some disturbing, from the antifreeze green of the Splattered Shag’s beak to the primitive red and black of the Angered Maggot Sleet. And what is most remarkable about these imaginary creatures is that they live, if not in harmony, then in creative discord with real birds, most extinct, some living: the passenger pigeon, great auk, Mauritius owl, Rodrigues solitaire and Lord Howe gerygone (yes, the solitaire and gerygone were real).
(There’s a slide show here.)
Steadman is yet another artist most often labeled as a cartoonist, but who’s also a caricaturist, illustrator, and writer — in his case, with an audience of both children and (for his editorial cartoons and in his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson) adults. In the company of Maurice Sendak, Raymond Briggs, Ronald Searle, and Saul Steinberg.