Ray Young Chu is a member of the art collective The Yummies, whose motto reads “Art and Peanut Butter.” The simple joys expressed in that motto exemplify Ray’s philosophy on life as well as in his work as a graphic artist. The Career Cookbook is happy to share Ray’s thoughts on pursuing life’s passions, marketing oneself as an artist, and graffiti.
CCB: When did you realize your interest in art?
RYC: First grade, second grade. My dad got me into art with water colors and some oil painting classes. But, high school probably junior year, is when I said this is what I am going to study, this is what I am going to do for the rest of my life.
CCB: How did your dad help you realize your interest in art?
RYC: He encouraged me in things that were artistic and a good variety. I guess looking back it was pretty cool that my parents got me into everything from Korean church art contests, tennis, piano and violin lessons, swimming and Tae Kwon Do. I think it gave me a sample of experimenting a bunch of things like I do now.
CCB: What happened your junior year that helped you focus on your career path?
RYC: I got into graffiti. Graffiti helped open up a lot of doors for me. Graffiti has really taught me about marketing. Guerilla marketing and do-it-yourself culture. The bigger the better and the placement of your piece. Your content, political perspective, and your message. Questions to ask as a graffiti artist: What kind of character are you going to put in there? What style? It taught me typography. I.e. I am going to rock the bubble style, the wild style, or the more computeresque style. The whole concept of graffiti is you just go for it. You have your dream set up, you have your vision, and you just go for it. You don’t take no for an answer.
(Editor’s note: Ray has also been influenced by the photorealism movement. He is interested in exploring all different types of art to get his ideas across.)
CCB: What happened when you graduated from high school as far as pursuing your career?
RYC: Well, I knew that I wanted to study art but it was like what specifically? Then I heard about graphic design as being a more legitimate way to make money off of art. I started immediately studying graphic design at a community college, state college, and a little at a university.
CCB: How did you break into the art industry?
RYC: I have always had a Fine Arts attitude at heart, meaning an opposition to commercial art. Commercial art is being told, "I want this color. I want this look or whatever." For me I have always used graphic design as a tool, like a paint brush. I used it for whatever purposes and that’s where The Yummies came out. The Yummies were actually created after college. I really wanted to be free with whatever I did.
CCB: Can you explain to our readers what The Yummies are?
RYC: The Yummies is an art collective with four costumed characters that do art and performances. I, amongst others, are ghost artists that have different styles for each character.
CCB: Where did the idea for The Yummies come from?
RYC: It was basically in our vocabulary like saying, "That’s really cool, that’s really fresh, that’s yummy!" It started out from there. Our first project was trading cards. That was an idea I came up with like four or five years ago. I said to myself, "It would be cool to have an artist’s trading card." Then we did a photo shoot, got some wrestling costumes, and took some pictures of ourselves. We said we should make a logo for the card and call it "The Yummies." It slowly evolved into "let’s define our company." We are all about focusing on the simple joys of life. Basically we came up with all these symbolic adjectives and peanut butter was one of them. And we knew that art was the main emphasis of it thus our motto: "Art and Peanut Butter."
CCB: How did you learn about art, was that in college, on your own?
RYC: Life is all about learning. I hate to say this, but I am learning as much or more after school. I am always studying design. The way the aesthetic looks. The way it is contrasted or how big the letters should be. The placement of letters, color schemes. Symbolically the smells, the taste, the touch, all of that is very important. The feel that you get after looking at a picture or painting.
CCB: You make some social commentary in your work, but in kind of an abstract way, with humor. What are you trying to get across?
RYC: It’s a total social commentary on life and if I am feeling angry how do I express that and how do you deal with the stresses in the world? Almost everything is symbolic in what we do, but some of it is straight forward. There’s this one painting of Ninja Nate (One of The Yummies characters) and he is floating on this air scooter and he has his records in his scooter crate. It’s just a cityscape scene with people in front of him and he's asking, "What if there was no air?" It’s talking about how much of a blessing it is to be living. As simple as air and as simple as having life.
CCB: Right now you are self employed. How did you go about establishing that?
RYC: That’s a good question. I had a decent paying job and was living at home with my parents, which I still do and that helps a lot in my endeavors. I saved up all this money. I heard this audio book, Don’t Worry, Make Money, and the whole thing I got out of it was don’t take a two week vacation, take a two year vacation to pursue whatever you want to pursue in life. I saved up a whole bunch of money and I did that and it has been like four and a half years since I had that job. That has helped me to be self employed and pursue art. Selling paintings is pretty much how I have been able to keep going and the gear too, The Yummies stuff.
CCB: Do you have any advice for people interested in becoming artists?
RYC: Immediately, don’t wait until you are out of school, try selling your work. I mean surviving off being self employed is making a living so you really need to start as soon as possible. I treat the business as an art as well. I would say to artists, think of business as an art too. Same way he would concept a painting he would concept his business such as the timing of when you release one product to another product. So, always thinking of that and learning the tools necessary to run this business because it’s a whole business even if you are a single artist. How are you going to market yourself? Which activities are you going to get involved into?
CCB: Can you advise others on how to get their work out there, market it?
RYC: I would say to start out by doing the artwork, doing rad artwork, and showing it anywhere and everywhere. Ebay is good. I go back and forth between showing it anywhere and everywhere because I don’t want to spread myself too thin. The more people that can see your work, the more possibilities of it getting sold. Always studying and researching material and saying, OK, I don’t want to do this on this cheap material because it lowers the value of the painting.
Improving in the artwork and networking are very important. Our thing (The Yummies) is that we are not going to be knocking on doors. We want to build up a hype, a quality that speaks for itself. Where people, companies, are going to say, “Wow, we want to work with these guys!”
CCB: How self sufficient do you have to be in this line of work? If you aren’t pushing your stuff then realistically can you earn a living?
RYC: It’s a constant hustle. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. But, that’s life. The studies and the statistics show it takes seven years or more to be successful in whatever career you choose starting from scratch to getting some good recognition and making a decent income. I think the strong survive because they keep on truckin’ along. That's why it's important to do what you want to do because when times get tough you will still keep doing it.
CCB: How do you promote and market your work? Is this through The Yummies as performers, the Internet?
RYC: For us its just right time, right place, right century. We wear mascot costumes, rap, and perform now. Not too many people are doing that. And then our trading cards have gotten us into a lot of places. We try and be conscious of not doing something that other people have done. Our randomness just totally works for us because that is who we are. We like talking about growing out our beards and eating nuts and fruits. Be yourself and at the same time improve your product. We better be way better next year than this year in our products. We are improving in our look and in our quality, but we are still sticking to who we are.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
RYC: Always trying to increase in sales, in profits. Finding new and creative ways to earn a living, that’s the toughest thing. It is easy to produce art. It’s hard to be able to make money off of it. Anything creative is tough to do that with, unless it’s easy to sell.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing? Is it doing what you love?
RYC: Doing what you love and the freedom.
CCB: What are your career aspirations?
RYC: I look at The Yummies being a national thing in a couple of years and then maybe going international. Maybe even having an animation show or a kids’ show. That would be kind of cool to have a hip hop/cartoon show for kids that teaches them about manners or education or environmental conservation. That would be really cool. Also to create a company where there are a lot of employees that are doing what they love to do. Whatever their gift or passion is and they are making a living, they are providing for their family.
Learn more about Ray and The Yummies at the following web sites: