Chuck U’s artwork brings to life an alternate reality that exists within his creative brain. A music-crazed, DJ-ing monkey. A scruffy, Godzilla-like dog/octopus hybrid donning a bowler hat and monocle. A bird perched in a tree with robotic eyes.
But why a fascination of whimsical and wondrous worlds?
“I wish I had an awesome explanation or some deep meaning behind it all,” Chuck says. “I don’t have a reason other than I think it’s fun.”
Chuck’s artistic abilities were fostered at an early age by his mother. “I was born while my mom was going to MCAD for fine art,” says Chuck. “She was an artist and always encouraged art in me and my siblings growing up. I remember my mom giving me crayons and paper to draw on ever since I can remember.”
In fact, as a little kid, Chuck U would copy his “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic books and try to make his own graphics. “Being an artist for ‘Ninja Turtles’ was my first ‘dream’ when I was eight or so,” he reflects. “The comics just spoke to my young imagination.”
As Chuck got older, he dabbled in a more adventurous and illicit outlet.
“Later in high school I really got into graffiti,” says Chuck. “I got arrested a few times and ran from the police more times than I can count. I grew up in the Northeast Minneapolis/Columbia Heights area in the late ‘90s and graffiti was everywhere, so it was only a matter of time before I started doing it myself. A friend’s older brother showed us some techniques one day in eighth grade and I was hooked.”
When it was time to move from high school to college, he attended The Art Institutes International Minnesota for graphic design. In the summer of 2002, he took time off to work and save money up for college, but never went back. That didn’t mean his journey ended there.
Chuck had been doing jobs and gigs here and there, such as being employed at Uptown’s Hollywood Video and rapping at open mic nights, but it was while working at Kinko’s that he met a local concert promoter. Secretly slipping him his card, that first chance meeting led to a couple small-scale freelancing projects, to which Chuck credits as a time when “a bunch of stuff was slowly starting to come together, and started me down a path that eventually led to much bigger things.”
Since then, the illustrator and designer has amassed a stellar portfolio, producing pieces, installations, and album covers for Pandora Radio, Lollapalooza, the Minnesota Lottery, Muja Messiah, Sean Anonymous, and Ecid. But one of his crowning jewels comes in the form of a Northeast Minneapolis brewery: Indeed Brewing Company.
“Almost exactly five years ago now I got an email from them asking me to design their labels. And I actually ignored it at first,” Chuck says. “A few weeks later they actually tracked me down to an event I was throwing at the Nomad to convince me why I should work with them. I’m so glad they did because it’s definitely one of my career highlights to be involved with them and continue to be involved in such a heavy way with their look.”
And the feeling is mutual with Indeed. The founders tapped into Chuck U’s “off-beat, otherworldly-meets-urban vibe and incredible attention to detail” for the company’s branding and labels, according to marketing and communications manager, Kelly Moritz. Whether it’s Day Tripper, Lavender Sunflower Honey Dates, or Midnight Ryder, which was hailed in 2014 as one of “The 10 Coolest-Looking Canned Beers in America” by Thrillist, Chuck’s illustrations add beauty to beer. “People consistently respond really well to Chuck’s signature style,” Moritz says. “I think Chuck’s style showcases some of Indeed’s own signature traits: creative, whimsical, and a little off-center.”
When he’s not designing, he enjoys watching movies, playing video games, and hanging out with his dog. And even though he’s not sure what his next step is, there’s no doubt that we’ll be transported to a line-intensive land of off-kilter cities, worm-like tubes, and astronaut cats, because what he does makes him happy. “I’m just lucky that what I draw makes other people happy too, or none of this would be possible.”