LOS ANGELES — Despite drawing since he was a child, a career as a painter wasn’t what artist Luke Chueh had in mind when he first moved to Los Angeles.

While studying graphic design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cheuh was more concerned about earning a consistent paycheck and thought he’d find work designing websites and print advertisements.

What You Need To Know

  • “Intensive Purposes” by artist Luke Chueh is on view at Corey Helford Gallery until April 3

  • The gallery was first established in 2006 by Jan Corey Helford and television producer Bruce Helford

  • Luke Chueh designed the album cover for Fall Out Boy’s Folie à Deux

  • Corey Helford Gallery is open to visitors Thursday-Saturday, Noon-6 p.m., no appointments necessary

“Being an artist is a romantic kind of occupation, but it’s also a high-risk occupation,” said Chueh.

But when a professor confided in him that he was an excellent illustrator, but a mediocre graphic designer, Chueh realized he had to change up his practice.

“I give it up more so to luck. Lucky for me, people like bears, sad ones at that,” said Chueh.

Known for depicting cute bears in prickly situations, Chueh was inspired by artists like KAWS and Murakami, as well as his childhood watching Looney Tunes and Disney animation. When he realized that people are essentially programmed to empathize with hand-drawn animal characters, he decided to paint bears modeled after himself.

“I kind of realized that using anthropomorphization helps bypass the potential ageism, racism, and sexism that would naturally come when seeing human characters on canvas,” said Chueh.   

Once he found his voice, Chueh found his platform after discovering group warehouse shows like Cannibal Flower. Allowed to show his work along with 90 other artists, Chueh was able to sell his first two paintings, but more importantly, align with a community of like-minded artists.

“My first artworks were sold through group shows and these group shows helped introduce me to a community that helped me kind of find my voice, helped evolve my voice,” said Chueh. “I still participate in group shows.”

Chueh’s latest is not a group show, but a solo show at the Corey Helford Gallery in the Arts District. Called “Intensive Purposes,” based on the often misquoted phrase “intents and purposes,” Chueh’s work has become both popular and imitated.

“I think a lot of people associate my artwork as being dark or morbid, but I really perceive it as a study in contrast,” said Chueh.

So cute meets brute, and comedy meets tragedy.

“It has paintings that are inspired by the things that I love,” said Chueh. “There’s also paintings directly inspired by issues that I was dealing with over the past several years.”