Dave Van Patten’s work is arguably one of the most prolific throughout Long Beach: his surreal, sinewy figures, creatures, and people can be found in children’s books, on coffeeshop walls, in the historic Dr. Rowan Building downtown, in the Long Beach Post, in LA Record, in zines, on CD covers, in music videos…
And lately, you’ll find him using his art to help brand companies.
Van Patten is one of the few working artists around, an illustrator who uses his skills and style to help businesses—a rarity in Long Beach, where most creatives struggle to find funding for their art.
His most recent projects—creating the branding for the LA Coffee Club, a group dedicated to exposing lesser-known caffeine hubs, Humboldt Cider Company, as well as a project associated with all-things-Long Beach organization Localism—were not just random chances but a mixture of both luck and hard work.
“I have the personality type that all I do is work,” Van Patten said. “Luck is a big time part of success but you have to constantly work. Hard work—you have to take time with it. Einstein said it perfectly when he said that genius is just 90% perspiration.”
Van Patten’s ability to score branding projects was a mixture of willingness to always be working and connecting himself with his own network. Humboldt Cider Company is the brainchild of the owner of The Local Beer Bar—where it just so happens that Van Patten did a mural dedicated to the greatness of beer thanks to his sister living in Humboldt and a few words of exchange.
In other words, it’s about keeping it intimate—or keeping it that all-too-popular catchword of the decade, local.
“If you put your money into local business, the return on investment is exorbitantly high—something like 45%,” Van Patten said. “Put your money into corporations and it’s something like 15%. There’s this weird philosophy that if you put a whole bunch of chains and corporations, people and jobs will come. But from my view, if you build an art scene, people really come: Paris, Williamsburg, San Francisco… If we had some badass murals, people would stop telling me that I need to go to LA and the city will massively benefit.”
The idea that art generates money is nothing new: for every buck given to the National Endowment of the Arts, $18.75 is returned—a return of over 1800%. And in Los Angeles County alone, the creative economy—the precise work that Van Patten is doing—generated some $80 billion in net economic contributions in 2012 alone.
Of course, Van Patten knows this, but that doesn’t mean he has not sometimes felt the pang of wanting to escape the difficulty artists face trying to earn a living in Long Beach. However, like many caught within “the great drug that is Long Beach,” Van Patten believes there is an aura brewing within the city that will create a lively creative and business economy.
The hard part is just getting through the perspiration of doing it by keeping it local.
“I’ve contemplated moving, for sure—but it will change,” Van Patten said. “There are so many people that are great artists: great muralists, great contributors. Why can’t we work just a tad bit to go more local?”
Even more, when you keep interactions intimate within the community, trust builds according to Van Patten. With his prolific portfolio and continual projects that were more face-to-face conversations than pen-to-paper contracts, people—and soon enough, companies—trusted him and his work.
“I work hard—so when things like the Humboldt Cider Company approach me, they don’t give me major direction, only minor,” Van Patten said. “And then I just get to do my thing: make art while making a business possibly grow.”
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