Stephen McKeown was born in Ballymena in 1951. As a child, he had a keen interest in animals. He lived between Ballymena and Larne where he helped out in the local stables. He remembers drawing the family dog a lot. McKeown was brought up with dogs, mainly Corgis and Cairn Terriers, and these were the subjects of some of his earliest art.
McKeown left school at fourteen and worked in the salt mines in Kilroot. He married at eighteen and moved to England and then to Amsterdam where he lived working as a painter and decorator, lorry driver and bartender. At the age of twenty seven he met an artist who encouraged him to draw and paint. It was then suggested that he should apply for a place at Art College. McKeown graduated from the College of Art Belfast in 1983.
Upon graduation, McKeown moved to Cheshire where he acquired an interest in sculpting. Within months he formed a sculpting company and within two years was producing mostly dog sculptures. After selling the company he returned to Northern Ireland for a short time before taking up a position as a Sculptor with Border Fine Arts in Scotland. He again returned to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he formed a successful sculpture manufacturing business.
McKeown has sculpted Irish hares, life-size Irish Wolfhounds, and more recently, a life-size donkey. His talents don't just lie in sculpting, his paintings include dogs and horses and other animals.
Before starting any dog breed, McKeown likes to study top dogs. His philosophy has always been that accuracy in the form and line of a dog is all important, itís in that way, no matter what artistic decisions are made thereafter, that one can express a breedsí character and personality properly.
It was only after he had moved to Belfast that McKeown 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.