Dave Van Patten, the versatile and prolific visual artist who cultivated his style in Downtown Long Beach, has won his first Grammy award and the international recognition that comes with it.
Van Patten, Lisa Glines and Doran Tyson were credited as co-art directors on their Grammy-winning album art project, a Grateful Dead 17-CD set, “In and Out of the Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83.” Each of them took home a prestigious, Victrola-shaped Grammy trophy for their victory in the category of “Best Recording Package — Boxed.”
Longtime Grateful Dead audiovisual archivist David Lemieux described the Grammy-winning creation as “perhaps the most beautiful artwork ever to grace a Grateful Dead album.”
“When I found out last November that we got the nomination, I was on cloud nine,” said Van Patten, who shared some thoughts and memories with us at Recreational Coffee on Long Beach Boulevard — not far from the original site of Sipology Coffee in Downtown’s East Village, where Van Patten spent some time back in the day brewing espresso shots and passing out free copies of his comic zines.
Our meeting was also close to Van Patten’s mural in the Frontenac Court alley, created for the 2017 Pow! Wow! Long Beach (now called Long Beach Walls) mural festival. DLBA encourages you to see Van Patten’s Downtown art in person.
As a reminder, Downtown is filled with murals and other public art: You can make a day of it by walking around and discovering other spectacular and masterful murals created by previous Long Beach Walls artists, along with more recent work like LaJon Miller’s beautiful new mural in the Waite Court alley.
Admirers of Van Patten’s murals in Downtown and all over Long Beach will attest to his knack for creating entire fantasy worlds inside a single image. It’s a skill he can trace back to his family life while growing up in Lake Arrowhead, California.
“We were a creativity-driven family, and really into comedy,” Van Patten explained. “I was influenced by watching Saturday Night Live when I was very young. The show featured what I would describe as ‘small narrative comedy packages,’ a concept that lends itself to comics pretty well. Comics are similar to skits.”
By the time Van Patten moved to Long Beach to attend school at California State University, Long Beach, his artistic skills were on point, so he enrolled as an art major — but quickly switched to creative writing, with thoughts of becoming an English teacher. After what amounted to a nearly seven-year interval in which he produced virtually no art, he started working on comics. In 2009 he released a self-published comic zine, Black Candy.
“During that time I was working at the original Sipology Coffee at 448 East Broadway, passing out my zine for free to get my name out there,” Van Patten recalled.
Soon, his work became large-scale and more visible on Downtown walls and at local festivals: He adorned a one hundred-foot skate ramp with his phantasmic and humorous artwork at the Summer And Music concert series, and created stage backdrops for the Music Tastes Good music and food festival. He also worked with Fingerprints Music owner Rand Foster on flyers for the Downtown music event Buskerfest.
Van Patten painted his first-ever mural in 2012 at the original location of Work Evolution Laboratories in Downtown, and in the ensuing years painted murals all over Long Beach.
His mural work attracted the attention of fellow Long Beach resident Glines, who told Rhino Records colleague Tyson about him. Tyson brought him into the Rhino fold in 2017 to create a concert illustration series. Two years ago, he did the artwork for a five-album Rhino vinyl box set from the legendary Long Beach band War.
The Van Patten/Glines/Tyson collaboration led to the Grateful Dead album art project, which Van Patten described as Glines’ brainchild. Glines spent countless hours creating the overall layout after Van Patten’s artwork was done.
“Shocked,” was how Van Patten felt when he heard his name announced along with Glines and Tyson as Grammy winners. “I knew it was a great project, but you never really expect to actually win.”
With such a prestigious award in hand, one might think Van Patten would be inclined to rest on his laurels. In fact, the award has had the opposite effect. “I feel like I got an energetic kick in the butt to just keep moving,” he declared. “There’s a pretty great sense of momentum that has happened because of this.”
We at DLBA are honored to have been associated with many of the events in which Van Patten contributed his singular and striking artwork. We are also engaged in preserving the kind of environment that could nurture an artist of Van Patten’s magnitude. “It all started for me in Downtown Long Beach,” he said. “Downtown has always had my back.”
There is so much public art in Downtown Long Beach! Come visit, discover our amazing art offerings and make Downtown your favorite open-air art gallery.