Pat Gehrman painted this SteamPunk mural for Ryan Food & Spirits in Omaha.


Kicking It into High Gear

Pat Gehrman’s Mural Is a Photorealistic Vision of Steampunk

Pat putting finishing touches on the mural.

When Pat Gehrman was commissioned to paint a mural for a trendy restaurant in Omaha, the gears started turning—both figuratively and literally.

The mural he ultimately created is an eye-popping, larger-than-life, 3D depiction of steampunk that looks like it’s bursting through the drywall.

Steampunk, for those who don’t know, is a funky, trendy sci-fi look that depicts a post-apocalyptic future in which steam-powered machines and weaponry rule. Some of the elements that  characterize steampunk are gears, pipes, valves and other industrial materials.

The project took place at Ryan Food & Spirits, with the challenge for Pat to fill a blank wall approximately 10 feet tall by 40 feet wide. “The Steampunk was almost an accidental thought,” says Pat, owner of Gehrman Murals. “The first thing that popped into my head was cogs and gears.”

A close-up of a pipe with 3D embellishment.

Pat shared his idea with the owner of the restaurant. “I sat down at the restaurant with a piece of paper and a borrowed pen, then sketched it out for him,” he says. “He liked the idea, so I Googled ‘cogs,’ ‘wheels’ and ‘gears’ and started collecting as many images as I could.” 

As the vision took shape, Pat turned to an Omaha artist who already knew a lot about the Steampunk look: Sandra “Sass” Lassley of Fe Fi Faux Studios. A couple years ago, Sass and her husband, Jeff, created an ad with a Steampunk theme in which they wore Steampunk gear and proclaimed to be “waging war on ugly walls.” Sass had collected various elements to give that ad an authentically Steampunk look.

Pat with the finished work.

 With this experience to draw from, Sass helped Pat design the mural and then headed out and about town in search of various accessories  to give it a super-realistic 3D element. “She went out junking and found a ton of stuff,” says Pat. The “stuff” included everything from upholstery nails to temperature gauges to weathered metal gears.

Meanwhile, Pat began creating the mural. “I literally stuck a pin in the wall and started drawing circles,” he says. The full scope of the mural included a series of cogs, gears, fly wheels, pipes and riveted metal panels. Pat used acrylic paints in colorations that gave the finished piece its realistic, industrial look. He then incorporated the items that Sass had found, painting dramatic shadows extending from the real elements to give the mural a more dramatic 3D effect.

Pat’s reputation for photorealism is evident not only in his mural work but also in his portraiture work. He earned his bachelor’s degree of fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1991 before eventually moving to Omaha.

For the past 10 years, Pat has built an impressive portfolio as the owner of Gehrman Murals, with his work appearing in private residences and public establishments.  He often works often in collaboration with decorative painters in Omaha. “We’re a pretty tight-knit community here,” he says.

Could another Steampunk mural lie ahead for Pat? It’s certainly a possibility. He reports that Sass was able to find so many Steampunk-themed elements that it wasn’t possible to use all of them in a single mural. “She found a great stockpile for the future,” he says.

A wider view of the finished mural.