ARTIST REBEKAH STEEN
THE EBBS AND FLOWS of creation often come with blurred lines, piles of scraps, and messy surroundings. Trial and error, followed by frustrations often lead up to the point in which a creator feels a piece of work is to a place acceptable to stop. And even fewer pieces, are then shared with the outside world. Dedicated time and possessing an ability to surround oneself with others who’s skillset stretch beyond their own can lead a lifetime of commitment to searching and seeking to grow the ability to master transformations of works line by line into something beautiful that will serve as a source of inspiration to many.
On the surface, one might see Rebekah Steen simply as a successful mommy blogger who paints pretty flowers and tropical scenes. Truthfully, she’s spent her lifetime perfecting a versatile, yet artistic portfolio. Over the years, she’s steered her career into a number of directions but one connection has remained the same. She’s spent time as a model, brand ambassador, and graphic designer - all of which, have held space for the expression of her creativity. Now, not only is she spending her days creating as a mom and blogger, but she’s connected to her roots as artist who has discovered that she’s been subconsciously training all her life to grow her ability to confront, sit with and then transform her emotions into artworks through a variety of mediums.
“All of my stuff is super personal. The photography, paintings arts. And I consider myself a strong and feminine woman so a lot of what I do is documenting my journey. My feelings and thoughts. And there’s a lot of strength and vulnerability through this.”
A notable moment in her memory back goes all the way back to her days as a toddler, recollecting how her artistry has always been encouraged and supported by her mom from day one. As a naturally stylish woman, one summer her mother fitted her in a two piece bikini that has had a presence in everything she’s done every since. Like any two year old child, she likely passed this off as her favorite swimsuit with a cute goldfish kiss design that she loved so much she wore even in the snow. But as we scaled back and took a look at the course of her creative development, there’s been a recurring theme throughout her lifetime that connects the spirit of the “Goldfish Kiss.” An underlying expression woven by a web of style, expression, and creativity transforming its shape over time and rebirthed in a variety of forms. This simple bikini with a cute, childish design is one that has held the same strength of impact for her as it did on the first day she wore it all throughout her lifetime and journey as an artist.
Rebekah was a natural born creative who took as many art classes in high school as possible. And when there was a need for something creative to be made, her peers, teachers and coaches knew who to turn to. Whether it was designing a homecoming T-Shirt or painting a picture that was worthy of transforming into an office mural, dabbling in and exploring the world of the arts ruled her adolescence.
Following her heart, she set off to college to study art and received a Bachelors of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa where she dedicated her focus to strengthening her skills in drawing and painting. As her senior year rolled around, she made the decision to switch to graphic design with a more stable career in mind. Pulled between practicality and passion, she was not quite convinced she was made for a traditional profession of offices, deadlines, and client projects. Her heart strings were still longing for more.
Post graduation, she had not quite shaken this feeling of the passion connected to developing as an artist, Rebekah found herself determined to keep growing and was determined to head to London to continue her education at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Her heart ached to stroll the streets of London and learn from some of the best artists in the world. The two months that followed were spent submerged in her parents basement surrounded by gigantic canvases, pouring her heart, sweat, and an endless amount of hours into creation. The result was a line up of pride-filled oil based paintings that would make their way for one final proclamation for her chasing her dreams.
Even though her vision of strolling the streets of London and attending the Royal Academy of Arts, was not quite met, from one of the most significant moments in her training, she recalls two old hippies who were really great teachers, John and Allen. Their encouragements still to this day ring loudly across all that she does. After high school, she went to study for a stint in the south of France. This for Rebekah was her biggest pivoting moment art wise. She’d walk half a mile up a hill with a backpack filled with supplies to this little studio up the hills in Provence where she would sit for hours with other studies, she learning color theory and impressionist style of painting from two old hippies.
They’d sit around and freely create, observe and give feedback on each other’s work. One day, as she was hard at work, painted a fellow classmate, her teacher pull her back and said, “Stop. You’re done. You don’t want to ruin the brush strokes, it’s done.”
In those 6 months, she really learned about art. Although she studied with oil and now paints with watercolors, in Rebekah’s opinion, the biggest thing one can learn about is color theory, developing your eye to be able to see how things can go together, and the ability to learn how to express yourself through it. She learned this, and so much more in her short time spent in that studio on the hill with John and Allen.
So how, what would make one shift from such an impactful path a trained artist in oils to watercolors? Without argument, Rebecca credits Kimberly Gordon of Wildfox Couture, a contemporary women’s line designed in sunny L.A. She discovered this retro-inspired brand some years back while living in LA and working as a fitness model. She would spent time scrolling the Wildfox blog eyeballing and drooling over their most innovative trends only to discovered that her and Kimberly had more in common than the passion for great fashion. In the mix of mood boards, skirts and crop tops, Kimberly would post watercolor paintings that she created in this handmade Indian Punjab watercolor book. The growth and transition of the art on her own blog is directly connected to the purchase of her very own which ended a decade long hiatus of diving deeply into creating art that she connected to which has gradually transforming not only the types of work she was makes, but essentially, her connection to what Goldfish Kiss really means.
The discovery of this Punjab watercolor book shifted her style of creation from digital arts, acrylics and oils to watercolors. A tiptop into a new way to transform the visions in her head to forever lifeforms that lived on canvases, apparel and beyond. Although scrolling the blog posts of a brand she looked to for many sources of inspiration pushed her in a new direction, the role of becoming a mother and the day to day details of what followed, to her has held the largest responsibility of what has allowed her to reopen, reconnect and continue to grow her artwork. Shuffling through her collection of pieces, she notes that her relationship with painting shifted significantly once she stepped into motherhood.
“[Being a mom] has forced me to sit down and be a little more grounded and just create something during those times. Who knew that having a kid could reignite that passion. Now with Levi, there’s time that have forced me to stay home. I had started painting again when I was married, but the paintings weren’t like they are now. This has forced me to slow down a little bit and as a result, find a different outlet, which is my art.”
“There’s a little more sentiment in my art now. It’s almost like this is where I’m at in my life, but I’m dreaming of this.”
As she strolls the beaches with her own two year old son, capturing as many of the moments as they’re able to create, the only consistency that she currently demands is the dedication to carving out as much time daily to experiencing witnessing life through his eyes as often as they come. Rebekah says, “The big thing for me is that I want him to see all that I am able to do, how much I love him and that I’m able to love him but still have passions in my life outside of this too. I like him to know that he’s more important, the most important but that I do have some other stuff going on too.”
Present day, she’s racked up a number of collaborations and creative accomplishments from swimwear, T-shirts, beach towels, baby swaddle blankets, jewelry and more. The array of art, commissioned works, and poetry she produces can be found online on her blog that was named in honor to where it all began that little red bikini displaying a Goldfish Kiss. As simplistic as it may seem to just whip out a design or collaborate on a collection, she’s been training as an artist every since a teen.
To some, this might seem too simplistic. But for Rebekah, course of events that have unfolded over her lifetime have lead her to unveil an ever evolving passion and purpose to make beautiful things, whether though oils, watercolors, writing, photographs or collaborations. And although a lifetime of studying from traditional classrooms to a studio up on a hill in Provence, to currently, late nights and early mornings or whenever she might be able to fit in the time. The parallels that have been carried and regenerated through each course of events in Rebekah Steen's journey as an artist that began as that free spirited child roaming around confidently in that little Goldfish Kiss bikini every chance she got.
BY EUNIQUE DEEANN