Ralph Steadman, whose macabre and frenetic drawings have illustrated everything from Rolling Stone to children’s books, is the subject of the new documentary For No Good Reason. Still witty (and frankly, kind of adorable) at 77, the artist came to TIME to talk about the film — and the drawings that have meant the most to him.
While Steadman is known for his playfulness, he often draws as a way of delivering a stinging social critique. He got his big break when he covered the Kentucky Derby with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson: “My job was to be there and provoke,” he says. “We were looking for the ugly side of Kentucky Hunter said he remembered from his childhood.” Many of his other pictures are critical of Western incursions into other countries, and he has a distinctly anti-authoritarian streak that he says is the result of a cruel headmaster at his school.
The documentary, which is in theaters now, indicates that Thompson and Steadman didn’t always get along; there are several instances when a clearly exasperated Steadman has to turn off the camera as their conversation spirals downwards. But he’s obviously drawn to quirky characters, and vice versa: the person asking Steadman most of the questions in For No Good Reason is his old friend Johnny Depp.