The cartoonist wary of work

Steve Cutts’ illustration will strike a chord with anyone who’s endured a dodgy day at the office.

Steve Cutts' Santa illustration
Merry Christmas, everyone Steve Cutts’ advent calendar went down a treat. Image Illustrations by Steve Cutts

The striking illustrations and animations of Steve Cutts have been described as bleak, terrifying and a depressing satire on modern society. They’re also archly funny. We wouldn’t want to live there, but we do.

Cutts pictures a modern world peopled by technology-addicted zombies, slaves to the illusory happiness of money and exhausted rats in thrall to corporate, planet-trashing greed. That’s us, that is.  

“I sleep quite well at night,” says the London artist. “I guess the only thing that should probably freak me out is that I’m not freaked out by what I do! After many years of creating this kind of art, you do get slightly desensitized to the dark side of the coin. It’s all just part of my daily world now, so I don’t see it as that macabre.”

Cutts spent years working in the advertising industry with the agency Glueisobar, for clients such as Coca-Cola, Reebok, Google, Virgin, Kellogg’s and Sony, before lasering in on the rigours of routine and the cankers of capitalism.

“I learned that, generally, making art for them involves a fair bit of compromise,” he understates. “A lot of companies will employ an artist, then overrule them. It’s possible to make a living there, but rare to have anything approaching creative freedom. At the same time, I gained a detailed inside knowledge of the industry, and some skills I couldn’t do without today.”

Cutts went freelance in 2012 and has since worked with a variety of production houses, his animations appearing on TV channels around the world, including Channel 4 and Adult Swim.

Even at a young age dystopian visions kicked in. At school Cutts drew “unflattering caricatures” of schoolmates, charging 50p a pop. “I was more of a businessman back then,” he laughs.

The illustrator Steve Cutts
Bleak chic Steve Cutts, the artist perfectly skewering our hellish planet.

Honing the images sometimes goes on for “weeks, even months”. 

There’s no doubting Cutts’ skill and searing scepticism. But will it help us get through the working day to be reminded that we are but mindless downtrodden drones?

“Friends haven’t expressed concern yet,” says Cutts, “but they’re likely formulating a plan to have me sectioned! My humour’s dark, but I just go with the flow. If it gets people thinking about the way we live, gets them talking, then I’ve fulfilled my objective.”

Cutts talks Loaded through the thinking behind six of his most daringly dark and visceral visions. 

1

Social Media Zombies

Steve Cutts Loaded illustration The Texting Dead
The texting dead "When we're on smart devices all the things that make us living human beings are less apparent."

“A look at our dependence on technology and the way people’s attention is now more focused on social media than real interaction. Why zombies? Because when we’re on smart devices all the things that make us ‘living human beings’ are less apparent – we’re not focused, we don’t interact and most of the time we’re oblivious to what’s going on around us, often in fact viewing the outside world through our camera phones rather than experiencing it first hand. So technology plays its role in distracting us from our basic human experience.”

2

Tube Rats

Tube Rats by Steve Cutts
Do not obstruct the doors Rats fighting to get on to a sinking ship.

“This is my interpretation of the sorry sight that millions of us in various cities all over the world have been confronted with on the daily commute for the last few decades. I’d heard somewhere that human DNA and rat DNA is around 95 per cent the same in its genetic structure. It got me thinking that we’re really not that different – we’re just animals that will do anything to survive. We even run up underground tunnels, trampling over each other to get to our destination. With rats, they don’t know why they do what they do, they just do it. With many people it’s the same. Aside from a cheque, we don’t know why we keep going to the office five days a week. We just do it because we’re told it’s the way we live and that we have to do it to survive.”

3

Circle Of Life

Circle Of Life Steve Cutts illustration Loaded
Spin cycle "The sheer insanity of it."

“Consumerism is a perpetual loop, and I wanted to visualize that in a way which expresses the true grossness of the reality. We vote with money. Stuff exists simply because people will buy it. Manufacturers keep churning out next to useless products because people keep coughing up the cash for them – it’s an infinite cycle. Goods are now being produced and discarded at such a rate that eventually we’ll probably all live on a mountain of obsolete electrical products. I wanted to visualize the sheer insanity of it – people are told they ‘need’ these products, that their life is incomplete without them. Their friends have them and something is missing from their lives somehow if they don’t make that purchase.”

4

Evolution

Evolution Steve Cutts illustration Loaded
In the flesh That Narcos box set was just so addictive...

“Stemming from the ease at which we can purchase anything now without even having to leave the armchair. Buttons on tablets mean you can order anything in an instant. People often can’t even be bothered to walk to the convenience store for a loaf of bread and will take the car instead. Combine this with our diets, the obesity crisis in the western world and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for many. I wanted to ponder where evolution might go based on all this, on our dangerous love for technology designed to make things ‘easier’ in the short term.”

5

Bulls#it

Steve Cutts Bulls*it illustration
Commercial break The radical Bake-Off reboot was not a popular hit.

“A comment on the state of television and media today, and the general dumbing down of content. The advent of cheap reality TV; easy-to-produce programming which has spawned a whole host of ‘stars’ with nothing to offer the world apart from their empty celebrity. And yet inexplicably, people keep watching. This is not to say it’s all bad. There is still some good stuff out there, it’s just swimming in an endless ocean of Kardashians and X Factor.”

6

Santa’s Sweatshop

Savage Santa Steve Cutts illustration Loaded
Jingle hell's bells There ain't no sanity clause.

“This one started out as a kind of behind the scenes of Christmas. It draws a comparison between the magical notion of the fictional (sorry kids!) elf-filled workshop of Santa and the reality of its real-life sweatshop factory counterpart. I also really wanted to draw an evil Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas as a time for family and friends, but the (im)pure commercial exploitation of Christmas is insane. The original intention has largely been discarded and is now an excuse for retailers to make money, kids to get new phones and working class parents everywhere to suffer. Happy holidays!”

For more on Cutts and his animations, see www.stevecutts.com  

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Loaded freelance reporter Chris Roberts has written extensively about music, film, literature and TV. He is also the author of around a dozen books.

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