It’s About Art and Great Coffee
Watch this video of Gary Numan’s song Splinter with photography and editing by Steve Patchin:
What is Art Bus Coffee?
This is a new venture for Steve Patchin, founded in two old passions: art and coffee. Art Bus Coffee is a mobile coffee shop and art gallery in an English double decker bus. While researching ideas for presenting art to the public so more people can experience it, Steve realized that the best way to reach more people would be to take the art to them. That’s where the idea, and thus the business, began. Seeing actual, physical art in person is very different than looking at it on a computer screen or a phone, but how can people know this if they haven’t experienced the difference? And shuffling through an art gallery isn’t always convenient or appealing. The access to art needs to be easy, and people need time to relax and enjoy it. Thus, Steve designed Art Bus Coffee so he could bring the art directly to people, and they could get an espresso, go up to the second level of the bus, and relax among the artwork. Steve says, “The satisfaction of tasting a good cup of coffee or espresso is very much like the satisfaction of seeing good works of art: they both feel right. And what better way to do both at the same time than having a coffee and experiencing art on a classic, English, double decker bus?”
Steve has been a photographer (and now digital artist) in Las Vegas for more than 30 years, and he has owned his video and photography business, Patchin Pictures, since 1997, winning eight Emmys for his work. When not making purely photographic images, he uses a digital production approach that involves an intense focus on detail, with layering and compositing that build depth, whether the end result is simple or complex. This gives his pictures a level of realism even when the subjects or situations in them are far from realistic.
Life seems to happen as gushing currents or slow trickles, but rarely steady flows. 2017 was a gushing current for Steve. The inspiration and efforts to create Art Bus Coffee happened along with a wild current of new artwork that flowed from him like rapids that can’t be damned. It was as though all the streams of his past experiences had been flowing toward a raging river that he couldn’t see until he broke through the jungle of the everyday to discover the kinetic wonder of nature’s energy. (Which means forget what doesn’t matter and focus on what does, the art). So, along with spending many months revitalizing an old bus, starting Art Bus Coffee, and running Patchin Pictures, Steve also created some of the best artwork of his career. This came in the form of stylized photo composites that reveal something more than just interesting locations. In these, Steve has produced a blending of characters with intriguing environments that suggest stories, and reveal emotions, as though they are glimpses of much larger worlds.
A great inspiration to Steve has always been the movie Blade Runner, and now Blade Runner 2049, which was released in 2017. As a visual experience, the movies are unparalleled. The sense of place they give viewers is one of the most important things movies should provide, says Steve. “I have always been intrigued by the feel of places. The first time I was aware of getting a feeling of a place I hadn’t visited was when I saw Blade Runner in 1982. Since then, I have always strived to bring that feeling into my own pictures. It’s why I spend so much time photographing locations that have unique looks or special qualities, that evoke my emotions.” But conveying in artwork the way places feel in person, or creating new looks from ordinary locations, requires more than making pretty pictures. It needs context, depth, purpose, intensity. This is what Steve explores with his photo paintings, whether they include characters or not.
Another driving force behind Steve’s artwork is the music of Gary Numan, a pioneer of 70s and 80s electronic music who is doing some of his best work right now, and who released his newest album, Savage, in 2017. Steve says, “Rather than clutching the past in hopes of remaining relevant, Numan has pushed forward into new sounds and ideas that have meaning today. He has more to say and different ways to say it. Not only is his music great, but his attitude is inspirational.” Steve went to three of Gary’s concerts in 2017, and more often than not chooses Numan’s music to play while he works on his pictures. “Gary Numan’s influence is deep in my artwork.”
The positive response from people seeing and buying Steve’s more stylized artwork has been surprising even to Steve. “I create pictures that interest me, making stylish changes to, and blending, my original photos in order to reveal the feelings, ideas and stories I would want to spend time exploring if they were presented to me as pictures someone else wanted me to hang on my walls,” says Steve. “Unless it’s for a commission, I don’t try to make the pictures suit what I think someone else will like.” And so the surprise comes when people feel something for the pictures and show a connection to what Steve felt in creating them. “Sometimes, I’ll finish a picture and think that I’ll be the only one who will ever be drawn to it, so when people buy those pictures, I realize I’m making connections with others by holding true to what feels right to me. In this, art and life become the same thing.”
After the idea for Art Bus Coffee was born, the next step was finding a bus . . .
The Big Red Monster
English double decker busses are not common in the U.S. It’s not something you can just go down the street and buy. But Steve was fortunate enough to find one that would ultimately run well, have enough room for an art gallery, and look good, too. That red monster was in Texas, which meant getting it to Las Vegas, a very difficult and stressful undertaking. Add to that the bus’ rough mechanical shape (and disheartening bad paint job) and you get a crazy adventure, what became a 28 hour odyssey of driving a smoke-belching, oil-spitting creature no more than 50 miles per hour across 800 miles of desert. That’s a story in itself.