Picture this: a sixth-grader armed with pencils and paper, sketching fully illustrated zines featuring a monster with a half-skull, half-zombie face and a chainsaw for an arm. Fast forward a couple of decades, and you've got Dave Van Patten, an illustrator and mural artist who has taken the NFT world by storm with his unique brand of pop, gore, and surrealism.
Dave provides a fantastic finish to The Inevitable, as he explores the complexities of life and death through his distinctive artistic lens. But for Dave, skulls aren't symbols of death and darkness. Instead, they represent the joy of childhood and the raw, unfiltered creativity that comes with it. Drawing inspiration from his early days of making comics and zines, he has evolved his artistic journey by embracing murals, album art, and eventually NFTs.
Skulls don’t generally represent death and darkness to me. They represent childhood fun. Every young boy in the world who learns how to draw, starts drawing creepy monster skulls, and essentially doesn’t stop even into adulthood. It’s not a lofty thing for me. It represents the time period of my artistic development as a child, when art was fun and crude.
~ Dave Van Patten
One of the highlights of Dave's career was his collaboration with Cloudmachine, a NFT project featuring his hand crafted pieces. Tired of dealing with client revisions, he was eager to dive into a project where he could let his imagination run wild. And that's precisely what NFTs offer: the freedom to create without boundaries. Dave’s blending of pop culture, gore, and surrealism yields some eye-popping outcomes.
But it's not just the artistic liberty that makes NFTs so appealing. For Dave, the concept of the personal profile picture (PFP) and the opportunity for obscure artists to gain recognition and build a following are key factors in their success. Dave has used the advantages of blockchain technology to provide Cloudmachine holders with unique, 1-of-1 signed prints of their NFTs, and opportunities to have personally crafted PFPs.
As for the future of the NFT market, Dave hopes to see more high-art collections thrive and raise the bar for quality in the Web3 space. While he can't predict what lies ahead, he's confident that the NFT revolution will continue to impact the art world in significant ways. Dave continues to contribute to NFTs, creating unique drops for Cloudmachine holders and the public at large, and collaborating with other NFT projects.
Of course, it would be remiss not to mention Dave's incredible artwork for the Grateful Dead – the quintessential band for The Inevitable. In a harmonious collision of his surreal style with the band's psychedelic legacy, Dave has created visual masterpieces that perfectly capture the essence of their music for a number of live recording albums. His illustrations for the Grateful Dead served as a pivotal moment in his career, showcasing his ability to fuse his love for music and art into a cohesive, captivating experience, and leading him to a Grammy win! Sharing the win with fellow nominees Lisa Glines and Doran Tyson, Dave was honored for his artwork on a Grateful Dead limited edition boxed set released in 2022. For Dave, working with the Grateful Dead was a testament to the power of authenticity and staying true to one's artistic vision, a lesson he carries with him as he continues to explore the ever-evolving world of art.
POW! WOW! Mural in Long Beach, CA, by Dave Van Patten. Photo courtesy Dave Van Patten.
In his home of Long Beach, California, Dave’s public art projects have left an indelible mark on the city. One of his most notable creations is a 60-foot mural at Alex's Bar in Zaferia, painted in 2017 as part of the annual POW! WOW! Festival (now called Long Beach Walls). This event draws artists from around the globe to create stunning outdoor art pieces throughout the city. Dave's mural, a local favorite, clinched first place in the mural category during the 2019 Best of Long Beach, a project led by the Long Beach Post, with over 100,000 votes cast.
When it comes to the creative process, Dave stresses the importance of staying inspired and mentally stimulated. For him, this means immersing himself in various forms of art, from films and music to comics. He believes that a well-rounded artist is one who can draw upon an array of influences to create something truly unique.
As for emerging artists looking to break into the NFT world, Dave advises against chasing trends and striving for mainstream appeal. Instead, he urges them to stay true to their authentic selves, no matter how weird their style may be.
From his humble beginnings as a schoolboy sketching monster skulls, Dave Van Patten has come a long way. Today, he's an art maestro making waves in the NFT world and beyond, while keeping his inner child alive and kicking. So, next time you stumble upon a skull-emblazoned NFT or admire his Grammy-winning work with the Grateful Dead, remember that beneath the surreal and edgy exterior lies the spirit of a young boy who simply loves to create.
Click the ArtDrop to see more!
The ArtDrop: Tune in Tune out
Dave Van Patten's ArtDrop, "Tune in Tune out," for The Inevitable exhibition is an mesmerizing animated GIF. The piece showcases a two-sided head – one half displaying seemingly melting flesh, while the other reveals a raw skull dripping in gore. Behind the head, the captivating background of ever-changing psychedelic patterns and colors sets the stage for an exploration of "The Inevitable: Life, Death, and the After." The juxtaposition of the head against the hypnotic backdrop invites viewers to reflect on the cyclical nature of existence and the delicate balance between life's contrasting forces.
Life and death are obviously more complicated than a contrastive dichotomy, but it’s too tempting not to lump it in visually with the age old, white dark, yin and yang, ascension dissension metaphors. And, of course, one can view it differently, like a transition portal or a changing of the channel.
~ Dave Van Patten
Perhaps in a homage to the Grateful Dead, Dave invites us to "Tune in Tune out" as we change the channels of this existence. Perhaps we'll see you on the other side, anon!