Cole Kush takes animation into the uncanny valley

Strangely uplifting and incredibly off-kilter, Cole Kush is a pioneer of the weird and wonderful.

31 March 2022

There’s no denying that the work of Canada-based Cole Kush feels like a fever dream. Uncanny anthropomorphic figures and distorted pop culture iconography fill up the animator and computer artist’s portfolio – and the work is all the more alluring for it. There’s a ‘pull’, so to speak, in each photo that keeps us entranced by Cole’s work. They’re hilarious, intricate, and creative. “I’d like to think the visuals I make are funny, but I also enjoy adding elements of confusion, health, mundane surrealism, and overt positivity,” Cole tells It’s Nice That on what typically constitutes a Cole Kush piece of art. Whilst certainly apt in his summary of the visual aesthetic, it’s also worth noting that Cole is undeniably innovative: his work is at the forefront of 3D animation and surrealist humour.

“I think my style is a lack of any actual training in visual art and just figuring out weird shortcuts,” explains Cole on what gave him such a distinct unique point of view. “My background is in biology and clinical science, which I think had a big influence on my work.” It’s true that his work feels somewhat scientific in nature. The limit of human possibility is often stretched and distorted in his characters, or they’re otherwise placed in clinical environments where something’s gone askew. When pressed on what else orbits his stratosphere of influences, Cole comes up with an impressively diverse list: “I’d say some other important influences include small towns, big clunky technology, chatrooms, complex health issues, slow pace, laughter, and the absurdity of being alive.”


Cole Kush: Family (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2016)

Take The Family, for example. It’s a riff on famous adult-animated network television shows, but combined with Cole's trademark idiosyncrasies. “I had an old idea for a show called The Family that I finally got a chance to try out on with the help of my friend Dan Streit,” Cole tells us. “It’s basically a sitcom where a family is learning to express their love and appreciation for each other in the most wholesome way.” Interestingly, the family members are all designed with AI technology for their face animation, and all resemble characters of the popular mainstream television show Family Guy – “but behave and sound nothing like them,” Cole says.

Beyond this, Cole has also launched, which he describes as “an artist-run video streaming service and entertainment network aimed at trying out experimental ideas and licensing curated gems.” The site is an amazing cornucopia of madness and unadulterated talent, which one could easily get lost in. “It launched in early 2020 as an experiment with a lot of help from friends and it’s been slowly and steadily growing since then,” Cole adds. “The majority of all revenue goes towards original programming from our artists and we are about to launch a quarterly live event in New York and Los Angeles to screen the new works and build the Eternal Family. I’m really proud that it exists and hope it continues to grow.”


Cole Kush: Mask (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2019)


Cole Kush: Mortgage (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2018)


Cole Kush: New Friendship (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2018)


Cole Kush: Emergency (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2016)


Cole Kush: Listening (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2021)


Cole Kush: Simpson1 (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2022)


Cole Kush: Simpson2 (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2022)


Cole Kush: Smart Phone (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2019)


Cole Kush: Computer Friends (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2021)


Cole Kush: Mark (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2019)

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Cole Kush: Game Day (Copyright © Cole Kush, 2017)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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