Illustrator Steve Cutts has a rather morbid fascination with "the more broken aspects of life." His artworks, brightly colored and meticulously detailed, tend to revolve around poverty, corruption, greed, social media, consumerism, dependence and drugs ... just to name a few.
He pairs his heavy subject matter with bubblegum backdrops and figures seemingly stripped from an episode of "The Ren & Stimpy Show." The resulting images amount to Cutts' take on modern society -- "to be taken with a pinch of salt, sure," but "based on truth in one way or another."
From a trio of humanoid robots operated by cats, to a crowd of zombies too preoccupied with their cell phones to look for brains, to an overweight man in a shiny car being hoisted by a group of skeletal laborers -- the graphic works are just as captivating as they are hard to look at. Gluttony, sloth, greed; all the sins of contemporary culture are on display, wrapped up in expressive drawings that prompt viewers to chuckle, scratch their heads and pray for the future of humanity all at the same time.
In an email interview with The Huffington Post, London-based Cutts explained that the main focus of his illustration work is the "unquestionable insanity" that infiltrates the systems governing our daily lives. "We live in a world where it's extremely hard to compete in our market ethically, and producing something without exploitation of people or environment seems impossible," he noted. "So people compromise on values and rationalize it somehow, because otherwise you have to break with society."
And this kind of compromising can look pretty bleak.
Yet, while Cutts uses his illustrations to reflect on the way we as a society collectively live our lives, the images are not necessarily meant to represent one uniformly negative view of human existence. They may be grotesque, but they're also cut with absurdity and comic relief that hardly dooms us all to dystopia.
"I've made a few pieces about mobile phones and social media, but this isn't to say those things are necessarily bad in their entirety," Cutts confessed. "They have their benefits obviously, but it's a comment on our unhealthy dependence on them, their power over us or their unsustainable manufacturing process that I'm focusing on in those pieces."
At the end of the day, many of Cutts' illustrations differ in style, with some leaning toward two-dimensional cartoonish scenes and others favoring realism and an eye for perspective. Some pieces take months to complete, lingering in Cutts' rotation until a fresh idea seals their fate, while others take just a couple of days to complete.
But, despite the intense aesthetic variation, one theme rings true: Cutts draws things that affect us all, directly or indirectly. And to prove he's not all fire and brimstone, he left us with a few words of wisdom for illustrators who, like him, want to move from the world of large creative agencies to the realm of independent freelance:
"I'd say follow jailbreak rules," he advised. "Prepare for a few months before making the move, develop a strong portfolio of varied skills, get a few contacts before you leave, have at least a few K in the bank in case of hard times ... and have patience ... it's the norm to take on some less than ideal jobs at the start."
"Obviously there's a lot of illustrators/content creators out there," he added, "so any way you can stand out from the crowd go for it."
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