Steve Cutts started his career as an illustrator and graphic designer at a London agency, working with international brands before deciding to go it alone as a freelancer from 2012. Having been picked up online throughout 2015 by a number of well-known online media, his illustrations and animations are nuggets of bitter truth sweetened with grotesque humour. One of the reasons we invited him onto our pages this month is that his work is consciously, unashamedly political. Well, that and his frankly fantastic Evil Santa, which takes pride of place on the front cover this month.

How would you describe your work?

My work is a satire on the way we live, using black humour to convey a darker message. The topics I choose are fundamental aspects of modern society that surround us, so naturally they are the subject of much of my work, the things that affect us on a daily basis – poverty, corruption, greed, the media and social media, consumerism, dependence, drugs, to name a few. The aim of my work is to get people thinking more about these aspects. I see a lot of insanity in the way we live, and to progress I think we need to become more aware and look at the options we have more clearly.

Was going freelance your way of having more control over who you work for and the sort of work you do?

Having more control over my work was probably the biggest single reason behind my choice to go freelance. At the agency I worked at previously, I was an in-house illustrator, so basically I would be part of any project which required any illustration and storyboarding, so there wasn’t a great deal of choice in what I would be working on one week to the next. Being freelance has given me the opportunity to collaborate with charities and organisations such as the GAIA Foundation and UNESCO, and has given me a lot of freedom in where my career path is headed.

Was working for those bigger corporate clients necessary for you to build your skills and networks? 

Working for the agency was certainly a valuable learning experience. It was working in-house where I first got to grips with animation software and expanded my skills with Photoshop, so naturally working on client projects helped develop my skillset. I daresay that even without being employed by an agency, I think I would have developed these skills one way or another.

Is it hard to balance your creative and commissioned work?

It can be tricky. This year a few big projects have come my way, so there hasn’t been as much time as I would like for personal projects, which I feel are equally as important in terms of personal development as an artist. But I enjoy working both to a brief and on self-initiated work. The joy of the self-initiated work is in the absence of a looming deadline, which makes it more of a relaxing journey which can unfold at a natural pace. Being freelance, the stream of projects coming in can fluctuate wildly, so I usually seize the day when a project I connect with comes along. Also, with the advent of things like Kickstarter, it’s now possible for artists to get funding for self-initiated projects, so the line is a bit more blurred now.

Humour is obviously an important grounding to make the topics you look at more approachable for people, especially when they can ring true in a way which isn’t at all funny.

Humour is interesting in that it lets you talk about uncomfortable truths while also releasing the pressure that creates, so it’s a fun yet real way to get a message across. It can also be used to explore relationships between individuals and the world we live in, emphasising certain aspects of that to draw people into empathising or identifying with situations, which I guess comes down to feelings in a way. We tear things down with our criticisms and rationalisations, but at the end of the day it comes down to how much we care. So I suppose humour can help find truth and also give much needed relief from the quite insane realities we’re living through right now.

What are your plans for 2016?

I have a few of my own animation shorts I’d like to spend some time developing in the new year. Also, I may have some exhibitions in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

stevecutts.com

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Sam Walby