Stephen May was born in Témiscaming, Quebec in 1957. In 1976, after one year of study in the Photographic Arts Program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Stephen began to attend art classes at the Ottawa School of Art. Three years later he enrolled in the Fine Arts program at Mount Allison University, from which he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During his fourth year of study, while in the process of creating a landscape painting, he came to understand the relationship between the success of a painting and the spirit of the painter. Stephen realized that drawing and painting were the media most natural to him. His convictions in that respect remain strong to this day.
Following his formal education, Stephen travelled through Europe for eight months exploring collections of great art to deepen his appreciation and knowledge. On his return from Europe, he accepted a seasonal position with Theatre New Brunswick as a prop builder, allowing him five months per year to pursue painting full time. After being awarded a Canada Council “B” grant in 1992, Stephen was able to take a one-year sabbatical from Theatre New Brunswick which provided a stepping stone to his decision to resign and paint full time, which he has been successfully doing since 1996.
Stephen has been a resident of Fredericton
since 1984. In that time, he has exhibited extensively, been an active
member of the arts community both professionally and as a volunteer,
raised two daughters, and been formally recognized as one of the
province's most respected painters. Gallery 78 has represented Stephen
since he assumed residency in Fredericton, and has presented many solo
and group exhibitions of his work. In 2006 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Stephen May: Embodiments, a solo retrospective, and in April 2007 Stephen was awarded the prestigious Miller Brittain Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts.
Nikki Thériault speaks with Stephen May on why he painted "Self Portrait on Toilet"
I really just try and make good paintings and drawings, beautiful ones. What that means, exactly, I’m not sure. When it happens, though, it tends to be obvious. The 18th century French painter, Chardin, said you use colours, but you paint with feeling. I understand what he means.