Urban African Style

Gary Stephens' Painting and Drawing

Gary Stephens Bio

I was born in United States and grew up on the Mexican border in the small farming town of Yuma, Arizona. After studying art at the University of Arizona and the San Francisco Art Institute, I have had the fortune to work as a full time artist for the past thirty years.

Artistic Statement

Monumental in scale, Gary Stephens portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style.

Charcoal Drawings

I believe that very detailed work holds a special energy because of the time and care it takes to create and this contributes to the sense of homage and appreciation I want to express. I love getting lost in the hours it takes to create and see it as a form of meditation.
The vertical stripes, pleats in the paper, and systems of string screens are meant to make the drawings more contemporary and give them a subtle visual vibration. I want the portraits to shift and make the viewers eyes dance when viewed from different angles instead of being solid or static.

The Leopard Scarf

The Straw Hat

Ankara portraits

Nigerians use the word "Ankara" for the colorful wax fabric so important in their culture. This series of portraits were painted on top of fabric that I bought in the fabric markets of Lagos.

The Orange Cap

The Turquoise Scarf

Models and inspirations

I love going to public concerts, sporting events and markets to observe people's sense of style and the creative ways they present themselves in public. Its not based on luxury brand recognition or money, but on personal flair with color combinations and hip ways of wearing the articles of clothing.

Scarf models


Scarf: Models and Inspiration


Caps and Hats

Caps and Hats: Inspiration and Models

Caps and Hats: Inspirations and Models

Caps and Hats

Afro Pop Art

My newest series is created by using graffiti and stencil techniques on wooden panels. I am trying to follow in the tradition of Andy Warhol but using typically African icons with fabric patterns and symbols integrated in the images. I plan to show them in repeated groups with different color versions shown together.

Three Yannicks

Jocelynn, Scarf and Hoops

mixed media on wood panel, 103 x 83, 2014

Linoleum Printmaking

South Africa has a rich tradition of linoleum printing and I choose to explore this technique for my African portraits. I originally learned lino printing in school when I was 13 and always enjoyed the direct, simple process. I added my systems of stripes, folds and strings to give the images a more contemporary feel.




Good Morning Africa

Gary Stephens Interview, Johannesburg 2013

Johannesburg Studio: August House 2012

The stencil and graffiti room with my art colleagues

New Johannesburg Studio 2014

Urban African Style

Gary Stephens' Painting and Drawing