Chris Yambar is a man of character — Popeye the Sailor Man, SpongeBob Squarepants and Mr. Magoo, just to name a few. The artist and writer has lent his talents to many mainstream properties and forms of media, but throughout his life experiences, Yambar has never forgotten where he got his start.
Yambar, who attended Youngstown State University in the late 1980s, has created over 2,600 paintings and has written comic books for more than 30 years. His work has been proudly displayed on everything from comic book pages and television screens to coffee mugs, shirts, statues, sketches, buttons and prints.
The artist said that all of that alludes someway to his hometown.
“Everything I do ties back to Youngstown, whether it is city-centric or not. I live here and represent that fact wherever I go,” he said.
Yambar has always been interested in the arts — visual and performing, communication, celebration, criticism and even the lifestyle. He said eventually, the artist and the art become one entity — you can’t separate it.
The entity Yambar has become most synonymous with is his comic work with Mr. Beat, a character published through the company Bongo Comics that he equates to his version of Mickey Mouse. Yambar has also been a contributing writer for Bongo’s Simpsons comic line since the 2000s after Matt Groening, the Simpsons’ creator, offered him the position in 1999.
“I knew a lot of people on his staff and found out that he was a big fan of my Mr. Beat character,” he said. “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with the most popular humor dynasty in the world?”
Yambar is far from done with exploring different forms of media. His first children’s book, “Midnight Nursery,” will come out this summer. He has also been in talks with a filmmaker in Florida about adapting another of his projects to the big screen. There are also some plans for regional art projects which he said he will have to be keep under wraps for now.
Yambar said he feels when you get older, you have a broader worldview and absolutes appear.
“When you do something for a long time, it grows and morphs based on its own legs — the legs you give it. Focus changes, themes evolve, you become more outspoken, fears fade, the bar raises itself,” he said.
Yambar said that college students should realize that there is no safety net in the real world and having a second career plan is always wise. He said the more skills you have, the more prepared you are in real life.
“Do your best work now. Do what makes you happy. When you become better in your field, the money will follow,” Yambar said.
Yambar is inspired by Jesus Christ, painter Anthony Joseph Salvatore, anyone working for the betterment of children and — of course — the innovative underdog Nikola Tesla.
Despite all of his ventures, Yambar said the work he enjoys doing the most is, “making a delicious fresh ground cup of coffee” to prepare for his creative process.
“There really is an art form attached to the process,” Yambar said. “In my ‘Beat’ mindset, coffee is sacramental.”
Yambar said that his most successful image would be anything that he sold to a happy collector — that knowing someone enjoys something you’ve created is the payoff.
He said in painting, his most successful image would be anything that he sold to a happy collector. He stated knowing that someone enjoys something you’ve created and feels that way every time they see it is the payoff. To him, success is about personal integrity, content and purpose.
“Some of the most worthless and mean-spirited people in the world are ‘successful’ by the wrong standards,” he said. “What you do and how you do it defines true success. I try to be supportive and encouraging. We’re all on the same ladder.”