We've all seen him. That guy who seems to always be in the coffeehouse painting or drawing. But why create art in a busy public place when you could sit serenely in your own studio?

Abstract watercolorist Steve Hardy is a staple at Bean Town in Sierra Madre. Almost every night after 7, you'll find him focused on his task of brushing bold hues onto large sheets of paper and transforming them into intricately patterned works of art.

The Duarte resident has been going to Bean Town since the early '90s and became a regular in 1999. Over the past six years, Hardy has given his paintings away to more than 2,000 people who have stopped to talk to him at the coffeehouse. He gave away 20 paintings to different people in one day alone.


"When artists paint in a public place, we do want people to see what we're doing," Hardy said. "If that wasn't true I'd be alone somewhere. I like the energy, I like the input." People will tell him their opinions of his work - good and bad - and he likes it.

Hardy also paints at home, but prefers to paint surrounded by people. He especially enjoys children, who are usually very interested in what he is doing and very honest about what they think of his work. The only downside of painting in public is the occasional distraction of people going through his portfolios without asking.


Hardy has painted off and on his whole life.

"I don't think I'm that talented," he said. "I compensate for what I lack with imagination and having a good time."

His grandmother was a painter, as is his aunt, and his mother also has dabbled in painting, so artistic talent runs in his family. Hardy's creativity was always encouraged and he feels sometimes that art is something he is supposed to do, although other times he feels it is a choice and just something he enjoys.

Steve Hardy, 55 of Duarte uses Beantown coffee house in Sierra Madre, as his art studio, painting abstract watercolors there almost every night. It seems
Steve Hardy, 55 of Duarte uses Beantown coffee house in Sierra Madre, as his art studio, painting abstract watercolors there almost every night. It seems like everty coffee house has "that guy"-a resident artist who sets up shop. Hardy painting one of his abstract watercolors Monday, August 19, 2013. ((Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News) )

"My technique is primarily subconscious. It's about watching the brush move my hand around. To me, there are aspects of randomness and things are going on inside me that I may not necessarily want to have conscious access with that will reveal themselves in the painting," Hardy said.


For Hardy, painting is akin to meditation or prayer because he loses his sense of time and becomes immersed in his work.

"It's one of the best feelings in the world," Hardy said.

He begins his pieces by brushing broad, bold strokes of different colors across the paper. Hardy compares his next step to carving or sculpting, as he gradually removes selected parts of the paint from the canvas allowing patterns to emerge within the piece. It usually takes him two to six hours to complete each watercolor.


People often share stories from their youth with Hardy, as to how they were told they didn't have the talent to pursue their interest. He tells them to try now, as Hardy believes that it takes only one person to offer encouragement and the doors will be opened.

"People don't know what they're capable of until they try it. So much of who we are is fiction anyway, I don't mean that in a bad sense, so why not write a story that works for you. If we're going to tell ourselves things based on what other people say, why not write the story in a way that works for us and makes the world a better place?" Hardy said.



Hours: 5:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Where: 45 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre.

Information: 626-355-1596, www.beantowncoffeebar.com

More: Watch a video of Steve Hardy painting at Beantown in Sierra Madre at www.tout.com/m/vbxhu6