True Talent

Watercolor and collage playfully intertwine in artist Marian Steen's custom paintings.

By Lauren St. John
Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


Abstract artist Marian Steen vividly remembers the moment that ignited her lifelong passion for telling a personalized tale through her art. “In third grade, I received a shimmering gold star on one of my paintings,” she says with an infectious grin. What may seem like a small act of grade-school recognition to some is a cherished moment by the now wildly successful and innovative painter whose colorful creations tell stories decades in the making.

Steen’s creative eye is natural, and her positive energy contagious. With touches of collage, nods to nature and vibrant color palettes, she brilliantly transforms a blank canvas into an expressive art form up for individual interpretation. “Art is my way of communicating with the world,” she explains. Her watercolor masterpieces acknowledge the struggles and hardships we face, but she hopes to help people find the beauty in dark times by infusing her optimistic personality and outlook into each piece.

As you step into her beautifully bright studio, you are greeted by the wag of a fluffy tail and a myriad of abstract paintings that include and embody much more than just paint on a canvas. Even at a young age, Steen always has seen the world differently, and she uses this unique perspective to interpret her surroundings and create meaningful artwork. “Where other people see dirt, I see texture. Where some see the color green, I see a beautiful display of hues and tones,” she reveals.

Each installment is different than the next, yet they all have a consistent, lively feel that mirrors Steen’s effervescent demeanor. What starts as a simple pencil sketch evolves into an elaborate masterpiece comprised of vibrant colors, lines and handmade textures. Steen always has had a knack for crafting inventive techniques to make her pieces and their stories distinctive. It’s not uncommon to find her rummaging around the house for things like salt, bubble wrap, credit cards and scraps of memorabilia, like buttons, sticks and string, to add structure, dimension and meaning to her original works of art.

Her bold use of unconventional materials, unmatchable design sense and remarkable raw talent make Steen’s pieces standout at local art shows, like the St. Louis Art Fair, which she has been a part of since it began, and help her to inspire budding artists of all ages. Reminiscing on that day in third grade where her incredible journey began, Steen states, “I love sharing the process that has brought me so much joy and happiness with others.”