Art has been a sanctuary for Stephen, a place to gather strength, to explore, to express his voice when others around him seemed unable to hear or listen. Stephen discovered at an early age, with frequent moves around Oregon, new schools and new neighborhoods seemingly every other year, that his art was always there for him. Not much of a student, inexplicably, Stephen excelled in art class. When the dreaded report card came, he counted on finding that “excellent job”, “nice work” or the much coveted letter grade “A”, looking back at him. Once in a junior high math class, Stephen was so intent on the caricature he was drawing of the teacher that he didn’t realize the teacher had left the front of the room and now was standing right in front of his desk. The teacher looked down at Stephen's paper and said “is that me?” Caught off guard, all Stephen could do was gulp “yes”. Sitting there thinking “oh boy, here it comes.” To his surprise, this wise teacher looked at him and said “that’s pretty good,” then continued his stroll down the row of desks. Stephen’s relief turned to gratitude for the positive feedback. Years later, he realized this narrow escape was a turning point.

With budding confidence in his talent, he began to use his art skills in other classes. In health class, he created a comic book featuring “Our Hero, the White Blood Cell.” For a field identification class, he handed in a report with sketches of birds found around his neighborhood. Graduating from the University of Oregon with a B.A. in Fine Arts, Stephen found himself with a growing family. While working at a running store, he made the in-store signs as well as arranging window displays. After moving to Portland, he was hired as a paste-up artist for a printing company. On weekends, he worked on his house, building shelves for what became a library and painting murals on the walls of the nursery. Stephen air brushed tee shirts for his children and created one-of-a-kind designer tights for his daughters to wear to school. As his children grew, he continued to work on the house and pick up free-lance design jobs along with attending swim meets, soccer and tee ball games, cheerleading practices and high-school car washes. Needless to say, he had little time to paint or draw, but in spare moments he would sketch on napkins, programs, or whatever was available.

Eventually, Stephen found studio space in his sister’s Northeast Portland home. Finally able to spread out and focus on painting, his pieces began to accumulate. One day, he loaded them into the back of his truck and headed over to Concordia University, where he introduced himself and showed his paintings to Larry Gross, Chair of the Performing & Visual Arts Department. This meeting led to Stephen’s first art show and to teaching a studio painting class, both at Concordia. With great enthusiasm, some schedule adjustments, and an understanding employer, Stephen was able to do both for a time.

The seeming randomness, of being appreciated as an artist by his junior high math teacher, and later the willingness of the college professor to take time out of his busy day to view Stephen’s paintings, along with other defining moments have nurtured  his passion and intention to continue to paint and explore. The knowledge that art has always been a part of his life, sometimes waiting in the wings patiently and other times demanding to be expressed, lends meaning to that which struggles to be understood in words or feelings.  Stephen’s desire is to be one with art, to explore its colors, shapes, lines and textures, to learn its language.