The artist with one of his latest works. I Photo: @digimil

Name: Yoon Hyup
Age: 35 (Born. 1982)
Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York

What’s up Yoon? Thanks for having us in the studio today, what are you working on currently?
Yeah sure, It is my pleasure to invite you to my studio. I have been working on new pieces and for a new exhibition. I can’t wait to show to people soon.

Did art come before skateboarding or the other way around?
I think that art and skateboarding started at the same moment. I was around 9 years old when I started riding one of those toy skateboards from a department store before I really knew about skateboarding.
Around 1991, I learned to play the violin and piano. It was a classical music class and I hated reading scores at that time. So I would improvise and get scolded. I ended up losing my interest and quit. I think I learned violin for 7 to 8 years. Since I was very little, I enjoyed handcrafting and I got into drawing from the time around 1996 when I started riding a real skateboard. It was exciting to browse the CCS 95/96 catalog, read Transworld Skateboarding, and draw something while listening to De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Funk Master Flex, Cypress Hill, House of Pain. At the time, not many skaters were around my place in Seoul. So drawing at home after skateboarding alone was my favorite thing to do.

A younger Yoon with his Shred Stick I Photo: @digimil

Was your transition into making art an organic transition? What made you start moving in that direction?
From early 2000’s, a hip hop party called “Afroking Party” was getting popular in Seoul. I would hang with DJs, MCs, B-Boys, skaters, writers and photographers there. It was the first place where I exhibited my artworks and perform live painting. I started to use lines and dots when I performed live painting, because I wanted to express something quick while DJ Soulscape and DJ Plastic Kid were spinning. Since then, I have constantly created various styles of artworks. My current work with lines and dots is an accumulative result of my experiences.

You recently did a collaboration with HUF, how did that come about?
My friend Meguru introduced me Haroshi at the opening day of HUF New York store. I also got to meet HUF JAPAN crew there. I happened to see the crew again when I went to Tokyo for another project. After that, when they came to visit New York, my friend Koji had me reunite with them. Not long after it, I got an offer to collaborate with HUF from HUF JAPAN. The first was the one-year anniversary collection of HUF Nagoya store. I was happy about this project, and my graphic designer, my wife Dohee and I were so excited that I ended up creating more artworks than what was planned for release. When it was released, the reaction was positive in Japan. We asked HUF to release it in New York because we wanted to show it to skaters in the city. Followed by releases in New York, Los Angeles and Japan stores, an exhibit was held in HUF New York store. It was the greatest moment of my career of doing what I love.

Some of Yoon’s work with an autograph from HUF himself I Photo: @digimil

Who were your influences in both the skate and art world’s?
I remember I liked to watch Mike Hill’s Alien Workshop graphic, Persue’s Evol graphic, Andy Jenkins’ Wrench Pilot, Sean Cliver’s Hook-ups graphic and Ed Templeton’s characters in mid 90’s. I guess it was the motivation to learn graphic program when I went to art college. Watching Mark Gonzales’ canvas paintings and Don Pendleton’s minimal and abstract AWS graphics got me interested in abstract art. Eli Gesner’s Zoo York Tag, Master Series, Zoo York collaboration with Futura and Jest got me into east coast skate scene and NY artists. Futura, Stash, Lee Quiñones, Jean-Michel Basquiat and so forth, they are my favorite artists and I think they opened new era. In a same reason, I love Nam June Paik’s artworks and his insights for the future. In the mid 20’s, I had a chance to see DJ Krush’s live performance in Seoul. It felt as if I was looking at an artist writing calligraphy with turntable sound. That was the influence so I wanted to express my roots in my way as I was searching for traditional patterns and ancient motif in Korea. So I applied Korea’s primary colors(red, yellow, blue, black and white) and cloud patterns into my abstract patterns that you can find in my previous works.

Rag & Bone Mural (2014):

How would you describe your process in making your work?
I paint what I saw, heard, felt, remembered or liked but I don’t sketch when I paint. If I need to sketch, I would only put the big structure. Other than this, I only do with free-hands on canvas or wall paintings without sketches. It may be similar to a jazz performance which only has a plan but plays impromptu. It’s similar feeling from listening improvisational music, funk or freestyle rap. When I skate, I feel rhythm and flow. Sometimes I feel like I become a flowing water. I like to express these feelings with lines and dots.

Yoon and his wife share their workspace I Photo: @digimil

When did you move to New York?
I visited New York in 2007 for the first time, and I started to live in the city from 2010.

If you keep creating your own world, being consistent and sharing your positive energy with others, you will have people come to your own world.

What are some of your favorite skate spots in New York?
Thinking about Brooklyn Banks, old Astor Place spot, Flushing Meadows park makes my heart beat. I like to skate at Continental Army Plaza in Williamsburg and Delancey spot in Lower East Side. My favorite spots are anywhere near my place where I can do flat ground tricks or slappy’s.

Quite a collection I Photo: @digimil

What kind of music do you listen to while you work?
Usually I play Funk, disco, soul, jazz and boom bap. Cal Tjader, Donald Byrd, Thelonious Monk, Bobby Hutcherson, James Brown, Parliament, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show, Eric B. & Rakim, Marley Marl, Large Professor, Gangstarr, A.T.C.Q, Kool G Rap, Blahzay Blahzay, Billy Garner, Souls Of Mischief, Jeru The Damaja, Tony Touch, J Rocc, DJ Krush, DJ Shadow, DJ Smoke L.E.S, DJ Cam… Seriously, the list goes on. I listen DJ Soulscape’s mix, Jinbo and Primary’s music when I miss Seoul.

My Mix Tape Link

What inspires and inform your artwork?
The rhythms and flow while riding my skateboard gives me the motivation to paint. Because there are certain patterns and rhythms in it. When I run downhill on my skateboard, I feel like I have become running water. Music is also an important driver. Some music gives me idea of layout. When I choose colors for piece, I imagine I create sounds and decide musical tone.

What advice would you give to other artists who aspire to working with skate companies and getting their work out there?
This is a tough question. However, at least I think that things like how much you earn from skateboarding, if you receive sponsorship from brands, or winning at contests are not important. For me, painting and skateboarding are very much alike. Aside from all other things, I think enjoying them in your own way is the best. There is no need to care so much about current trends or your popularity. If you keep creating your own world, being consistent and sharing your positive energy with others, you will have people come to your own world. Do not rush. Look further. Never stop challenging yourself.