Q & A with Stephen May (March 14, 2007)

1. When and where were you born?

I was born on September 13, 1957, in a small town called Temiscaming in Quebec. I also lived in Hawkesbury and Ottawa in Ontario.  I moved to Sackville, New Brunswick to study art at Mount Allison University in 1979.  I have lived in Fredericton since I graduated from university in 1984.

2. Do you have brothers and sisters?

I have one older sister and three younger brothers.

3. Did you like them when you were growing up?

Yes, I liked all my brothers and my sister but sometimes she got too serious when we played a game and it stopped being fun.

4. Was anyone in your family an artist?

My mother’s mother painted as a hobby and my father did, too, but very rarely. My father takes a lot of photographs.  My mother likes to sing.  My sister and youngest brother are good musicians.

5. What were your favourite things to do when you were a child?

I liked to play hockey and loved being at my grandparents’ summer cottage on an island on Lake Temagami in Ontario.

6. Did you have any jobs you had to do at home for your parents?

I was the oldest boy so I had to mow the lawn and walk the dog. In the winter I cleared the driveway with a snow blower. I always complained about having to do these chores, but the funny thing was, when my younger brother was asked to mow the lawn instead of me, I didn’t like that either.

7. What were your favourite classes at school?

Mostly it depended on who the teacher was so if I liked the teacher I liked the class. Other than that, I liked gym class and art class.

8. What were your favourite sports?

Hockey and downhill skiing.

9. Did you draw or paint as a child?

Yes, but I don’t think any more than most children.

10. Did people think you would grow up to be an artist while you were in school?

I never asked them but I don’t think so.

11. When did you decide to be an artist?

I think I was 19 or 20 and taking art lessons at the Ottawa School of Art and I felt like I was really good at it. It started to be very thrilling making paintings and drawings like the old masters.

12. Why did you decide to become an artist?

I wanted to have a job that didn’t feel like a job.

13. Did you go to art school?

I went to the Ottawa School of Art for about 2 years. Those were evening classes for hobby painters. Then I went to Mount Allison University for 4 years and got a degree in Fine Arts.

14. Who is your favourite artist?

My favourite artist is a 19th century French painter named Édouard Manet. People think of him as one of the inventors of Impressionism.

15. What is the best thing about being an artist?

Having a job that doesn’t feel like a job. Being able to only do things that I believe in and having the opportunity to try and make the world a better place.

16. What is the worst thing about being an artist?

Sometimes I don’t know if I am going to have enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes I think I am not a good artist and I should be doing something else, like I am wasting my time.

17. If you could be anything else in the world, what would you be?

God, so I could fix all the things that don’t make any sense, or at least understand why things are the way they are. Or maybe dust so I won’t have to think about it anymore… but that will come soon enough, I guess. When I was growing up I wanted to be an NHL hockey player.