The Great Piddle Riddle


A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to get to spend the day with world-renowned cartoonist, caricaturist and friend of the extinct bird, Ralph Steadman. His spectacular, hilarious and often emotive artworks of a raft of long-gone (and many never-were) species formed a stunning centrepiece to the recent Ghosts of Gone Birds art exhibition in London, and have gone on to become the backbone of our book Extinct Boids, which will be landing in all good bookshops in October.

Pallas’s Cormorant, looking unimpressed about its impending doom.


I headed down to Steadman Towers in remote rural Kent with filmmaker Ceri Levy, who wrote the accompanying text, a sparkling gag-packed narrative telling the tale of the birds (mostly extinct) and the boids (mostly the product of Ralph’s imagination). Its a gripping story alright.

Ostensibly, I was there to do a spot of filming and pick up a few pieces to take back to London, but to be honest I was just happy to get to meet the great man. Ceri, Ralph and I had a lot of fun through the day – much of it spent hunting for a painting of an elusive bird indeed, the Pale Blue Piddle, which had somehow avoided the scanning process and had escaped, hiding out in a remote part of Ralph’s vast, cavernous, painting-packed studio. At stumps, the piddle muddle remained unresolved.

Piddles: Archive footage.


Ralph and I even had a chance to do some back-garden boiding, with some close observations of a nesting pair of crows in a tree by his house.

Later on, I took some photos of the lads deep in conversation about boids. Here’s some of the outtakes. The chat was ribald without ever crossing the mark.

In-studio in-depth heated debate.

Ralph gets emotional.

Artist meets editor.


Joking aside, Extinct Boids is a remarkable work, featuring 108 superb artworks, including unique interpretations of well-known birds such as the Great Auk and Dodo, along with less familiar members of the avian firmament – Snail-eating Coua, for example, or Red-Moustached Fruit Dove – along with a variety of bizarre creatures such as the Gob Swallow, the Long-legged Shortwing and the Needless Smut, all captured with a riot of colour and a slice of trademark Steadman humour.

More teasers to come …


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