Marianne Elam.
Landscape and still life watercolor painter.


“Painting is a very spiritual experience for me.  I feel closest to God when I am surrounded by the beauty in nature that he has created.  I see Him in every element of nature, and although it is impossible to replicate the beauty that is intrinsic in nature, I feel that I am worshiping Him by expressing how I view that beauty through my art. My hope is that when someone views my paintings, they too can appreciate the beauty that God has created for us in nature.”

I was interested in art at a very young age taking private lessons at the early age of 7. I began painting with watercolors in my teens, mostly scenes from the Napa Valley and the Tahoe area where my family had a second home.  

I studied art at the University of California Berkeley, and eventually graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Fine Arts degree in Design. Along the way, my interest was peaked in interior design, where I then applied my passion to commercial design and space planning. I worked for some of the top firms in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego before launching my own company in 1980 in San Diego. 

With a focus on career and family, there was little time for painting until after selling the company ten years ago.  Joyfully, I “picked up the brush again” and began to take classes locally, particularly one called “Painter’s Studio” taught by artist Jim Millard.  With my youngest son having recently graduated I have the great privilege of painting full time. I often return home to the Napa Valley where I paint from the constant supply of inspiring subjects found there.

I am particularly interested in light and shadows, and therefore most of my field trips are in the early morning or late afternoon when the shadows are long and color transitions with the light. I always begins with a value study and will find myself rendering a subject three or four times before feeling ready to embark on that final painting.

Marianne is a member of the San Diego Watercolor Society.

As a fourth generation Napa native, I grew up surrounded by the beauty of the rolling hills and abundant vineyards the region is world renowned for.