Stephen May was born in Temiscaming, Quebec. He studied art at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (Toronto), the Ottawa School of Art, and at Mount Allison University, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During his studies, May realized that drawing and painting came naturally to him, and he has remained devoted to these media since then.
Early in his career, May found deep inspiration in nature. While many artists were concerned with the latest trends and –isms of the day, May worked in solitude, using only his surroundings as his muse. From this interest came his favourite subject matter, things from around his house, garden, or studio, and views from his windows. He became enthralled with the effects of light on colour and form, and has shown that still life and portraiture can be given life if light and colour are balanced just right.
Stephen May has become known for his “larger than life” paintings, which focus on an “up-close” view of the subject, as well as the formal qualities of the painting, like light, colour, and brushstrokes. May is dedicated to art as a method of accomplishing both beauty and truth.
Since moving to Fredericton in 1984, May has exhibited extensively and has been an active member of the arts community. In 2006, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery presented a solo retrospective of his work, Embodiments, and in 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Miller Brittain Award For Excellence in the Visual Arts.