'Hero worship' is one way that St. Louis area artist Steven Walden describes his painted pieces, especially those created for sports and pop social categories. Although he didn't start artistic painting until 2014, it's now his full-time job. "I'm actually an artist by mistake," he quips. "But a happy one."
Steven became an artist in a roundabout way after exiting his job as a Maritz copywriter in 2012 to enter graduate school to become a therapist. But it was when he took an art therapy class in 2014 within the advanced degree program that he discovered his real passion for creating colorful, stylistic abstracts with his hands as an excellent way to bridle and occupy his effervescent energy.
"When you see my work, know that it's the product of all of these: failure, reinvention, rejection, stubbornness, hope, resilience, dynamics, gratitude and lots and lots of trying to figure it out," he adds, noting that his appreciation for connecting with others through the conceptual ideas of and emotional power of art is truly satisfying.
He completed his master's degree in 2015 from Webster University's professional counseling program, but recalls that brushstrokes were beckoning to his underlying sense of trying to be a professional matchmaker among people, just in a different way from what he originally envisioned.
"Art is healing because it can bring happy moments, and get us to listen to each other's experiences while also having the potential to make us think and to see the world from a variety of viewpoints we don't individually have," he summarizes, citing that he likes broadening his own horizon based on growing up in a smaller town of 9,000 in Hope, Arkansas.
Mainly creating sports and pop culture artwork in his High Ridge studio, Steven remembers getting a big break when developing a painting to donate to Big League Impact, a nonprofit initiative launched by Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright. Through unique, sports-related fundraising platforms, Adam and other professional athletes help people meet basic human needs, such as food, clean water, medical care, shelter and education to save lives, restore dignity and instill hope.
"Adam saw and really liked my painting. I'm proud to now call Adam a good friend, all due to art," he adds.
Steven declares that representational pop art is humankind's pre-Internet way to spontaneously interact with strangers about mass culture, which is partially why he feels so at one with it. "You could talk to, or hang out with, people about comic books, and immediately find common ground with other people who also like The Empire Strikes Back," he adds.
Steven also helps various organizations raise funds for charitable causes by providing live paintings at events or by donating print packets that include two prints valued at up to $100. He's worked with nonprofit representatives who support military veterans; people transitioning from being incarcerated; documentaries regarding mental health; homeless, runaway or at-risk youths; people without homes; and those facing life-threatening health or medical challenges.
"I simply want to support our local community. At charitable events, I create embellished canvas prints, painting one-of-a-kind pieces to be auctioned," he says.
While he confirms he enjoys painting pets and select St. Louis landmarks, particularly his favored The Fabulous Fox, he prefers to paint the essence of people. He's already working on new ideas to portray elements of the St. Louis City SC and The St. Louis Battlehawks.
Steven says he aspires to expand regionally, nationally and globally, with art signaling his legacy. He is available for commissioned work, and says he's currently working on a series of original canvas pieces to pitch to a well-known St. Louis steakhouse.
What's next for this self-aware artist? "I'll go where my energy takes me!"
"The goal of my artwork is to leave the world a better place; if it can alleviate anyone's suffering or make someone happy, that's good enough for me." ~Steven Walden