Gary Stephens was born in Arizona in 1962. From 1982, he studied Painting at the University of Arizona, Tucson and in 1984, Drawing at the San Francisco Art Institute in United States. He then spent a period of nine years in Florence refining his style, having been influenced by contemporary Italian design and traditional classical painting.
Stephens works in a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography. Until 2009, his focus had been on three main themes; landscapes, animals and flora. He drew his inspiration working outdoors and his landscapes were executed in a colourful expressive style influenced by Fauvism. However, his recent work engages urban African style. His drawings explore contemporary trends in the African tradition of hair braiding. Combining long, vertical repetitive folds and pleats in the paper with string systems, Stephens emphasizes the three-dimensional quality of the weave patterns and voids at several angles while moving across the picture plane. Stephens is also inspired by the bold patterns and colours of ankara fabric. He exploits them by laying rich, abstract colours and patterns on the fabric before over painting his figures. As with his earlier paintings of animals, this technique allows for the colours beneath to break through, imbuing his work with a sense of dynamism, especially when viewed from different angles.
As an artist straddling several continents and cultures, his creativity stems from his experiences living among societies and the people he encounters on his extensive sojourns around Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. In his work, Stephens chooses not to highlight the personal features of his models, but explores from various perspectives the distinctively African sense of wearing a hat; rolled, sitting high, at a certain angle, or with a pair of sunglasses on top.