Born Ballymena, Northern Ireland in 1951”, he left school at 14 with little education, was married at 18 and separated at 19. The passing years have seen him working in a salt mine, painting and decorating, lorry driving, working in a bar in Amsterdam, running his own companies, showing Bull Terriers, travelling the world and sculpting and painting. Today he lives in a small flat in Belfast surrounded by his art and indulging in his passion for painting.
Stephen was brought up with dogs, mainly Corgis and Cairn Terriers, and these were the subjects of some of his earliest art. In his late 20s he was inspired by the paintings of a fellow Irish artist, so made the decision to enrol at the University of Ulster to study fine art. His interest in sculpting and dogs only came about when he moved to Biddulph in the Staffordshire Potteries where he learnt his skill for commercial sculpting and production.
Here he formed a company producing mostly dog sculptures and on his return to Northern Ireland he set up Killyglen Sculptures in Larne designing and manufacturing figurines in resin of many different breeds of dogs. While on the mainland he also found time to design a range of dogs for Border Fine Arts, collectively known as Dogs Galore.
Before starting any breed, Stephen likes to study top dogs. His philosophy has always been that accuracy in the form and line of a dog is all important, it’s in that way, no matter what artistic decisions are made thereafter, that one can express a breeds’ character and personality properly.
It was only after he had moved to Belfast that Stephen had his sculptures cast in bronze. Soon he had completed two life-size Irish Wolfhounds, a life-size Bull Terrier and others that followed. The standing Wolfhound, in an edition of nine, sold out within record time for a sculpture of that scale and was the largest order that the foundry he uses, Bronze Art Fine Art in Dublin, had ever received.
The Bull Terrier has been a constant theme running throughout much of his adult life. He first met the breed at a dog show in Dublin when he was in his early 20s: "A lady sauntered past with two and to say they blew my mind away would be an understatement.” Twenty years later he was introduced to the breed again and soon his own dogs became an important part of his life. More recently, having turned his attentions to the painting of dogs, he won a silver medal at the Royal Ulster Academy for a Bull Terrier painting.
The success of this painting opened the flood gates and he now has works that include, among others, the Boxer, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Whippet, Irish Wolfhound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Stephen’s work has been exhibited at the Solomon Gallery in Dublin, the Tom Caldwell Gallery in Belfast and a solo exhibition of his paintings was shown at the Engine Room Gallery in Belfast.