The artist who led the APS/Akron Arts Prize creative crosswalks project could get an award for the most perfectly appropriate name. Random Cushing–his given name—describes himself as a nomadic illustrator, battle rapper and burrito enthusiast.
With an artistic sensibility that he calls hip hop cartoon, the Akron-based artist offered a perfect fit for a project conceived in part by middle schoolers.
Cushing’s family moved to the Akron area for his senior year of high school. Although he had a strong interest in art and “never stopped drawing,” he began his college career studying Chinese and Economics at the University of Akron.
After two and a half years, he gave up the original plan of starting with a “real job.” Putting off his real goal of becoming an artist meant that “I would be wasting time that could be spent developing my skills,” he said. He transferred to Ohio State where he received an art degree and has been working as an artist since graduating in 2012. After a brief stint in Montreal after graduating, he came back to Akron.
When asked about his influences, Cushing begins with his favorite artist, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Waterson. He also cites Jamie Hewlett who visualized the fictitious alternative rock/hip hop group Gorillaz and French comic book artist Jean Giraud also known as Mobius.
Cushing works primarily as an illustrator on small commissions, finding people who “will pay for doing what I want to do.” He does much of his business through his website, Randomswebsite.com. He also sells on his travels around the country. His many projects include the web comic Refill, which is currently on hiatus, but is scheduled to return this winter with a new issue.
In addition to his visual art, Cushing competes in the rap battles. He first developed his lyrical skills as a middle school student in Burdonsville, Maryland, becoming involved in freestyle tournaments over the past couple of years. He was listed in the recent BattleRap.com article “Battle Rap Rookies You Should Know About.”
He observes that in the Akron arts community “lots of people here love it and want it to be great. And that’s getting moreso; there’s more of a sense of community since I moved back.”
Cushing is able to support himself as a full-time artist by pursuing it as a business. “A lot of what I do is figuring out how people need art and how does my art fit into that.”
Cushing notes that most artists are not natural business people, finding it difficult to make the connections they need to make to get paid. If he has a project with a budget (like the creative crosswalks project), he frequently brings in collaborators who he pays out of his stipend. Ultimately he would like to see institutional support for artists seeking connections to potential customers.
To see more of Cushing’s work, check him out on the web at randomswebsite.com.