Allan Stephenson Biography

 myhand-web                                                                   A friend of mine Phil Maillard the poet once said…..
                                                  “the only people who really possess a place are travelers, the
                                                   others are all possessed by the place.


I have always found inspiration for my art from travel. I am always looking for that special sense of place that infuses some areas of the natural world with meaning, wonder and beauty. As an artist choosing to paint landscapes it therefore comes naturally for me to create art as a journal of the places I have traveled through. Attempting to extract what appealed to me about the scene in the first place. I think there is sometimes a mystical quality to landscapes. I believe that quality is a metaphor for something else, but I don’t know how to say what that is exactly in words and so I attempt to communicate this feeling in my paintings. I hope my work can provide some recognition of this wonder and provide escape from the sometime frantic world we all live in.

I take a traditional approach to rendering what it is I see. I apply myself to the task of using techniques already laid down by artists of the past. Craftsmanship is of equal value to me as self expression in what I am creating. While I am always striving for new ways to paint, I am not trying to break any new ground and I feel it is an illusion to believe that every artist has to do so.

I grew up in England and it has naturally influenced my idea of what a landscape is and so I am drawn to pastoral places wherever they may be. I also love trees, especially the deciduous types that take on different shapes and colors throughout the year. They seem to express in form the interaction between the force within to grow and the force outside-  that modifies that force. This makes them very poetic metaphors. Like humans the shape of a tree reflects its history, its conditions. Trees are endlessly fascinating- like the landscape around us now.

Allan Stephenson



Extracted from an article in Pastel Journal by Editor Maggie Price.

Allan says he’s always been an artist. “I guess it runs in the family,” he says. “My brother is, or rather was, an artist. He is now retired from a career designing bank notes and postage stamps and was responsible for the dove on the original VISA cards. My mother became a late-blooming painter after she retired. That surprised us all. My daughter, although not an active artist, is an art history major and there is more than the average amount of artists within my wider family.”

Born in England in 1947, Allan came to the United States in 1971. He lived briefly in California before moving to Oregon in 1973. Despite his years away from England, he still speaks with a charming trace of a British accent. “When I first came to Oregon, I lived on the coast,” he recalls, “and basically read books, cut wood and watched it rain. Eventually in 1973, I moved to Portland.”

Allan began his career in commercial art, in an unusual field. “When I was still in England in the sixties,” he says, “I worked as an illustrator for science fiction books and magazines such as New Worlds and Oz. It turned out to be good experience. The publications were in black and white, and I had to figure out how to communicate an image using only black, white, plus perhaps gray and lines. I worked to convey color and texture with only these elements. I believe that gave me a strong underpinning of good design in composing any picture.”

Later, in the United States, he worked in graphic design (pre-computer days, he notes with a grin), but eventually grew tired of commercial art. He began working in printmaking and silk-screening, and in the ’80s began to experiment with etchings. “I was fascinated with some of the more classical approaches in English landscape etchings,” he recalls. “They could convey color, depth and texture using one plate and one color. After working with that for a while, I began adding highlights in watercolor. And that led me into realistic landscapes in full color.” And that, of course, led him to working in pastels and oils.

“The thing about pastels is, if you look at any square inch of a pastel painting, you can find hundreds of colors—little specks of color are visible. That’s more like the reality of color to the eye. When you look at the landscape for instance, a tree is not just one color, the sky is not just one color. But if you work in paint, you mix a blue and slap it on and that’s the sky, one flat color. With paint one has to find ways to work around that fact. One has to layer and blend in order to get that same quality. I work to incorporate this concept of multiple colors in my pastels-and now in my oils.

Allan says he has never found a set formula for producing a great painting. “You can do all those things you think should work,” he says, “all those compositional things, putting the dark in front lower, and getting a good balance of light and dark etc. You can do all that, but then what you have to add is that emotional quality, that special feeling, and that can take a lot of time! That part emerges at it’s own speed. That is why one cannot hurry a good painting. It is not a mechanical process.”

“I take a traditional approach to rendering what I see. Craftsmanship is of equal value to me as self-expression in what I am creating. While I am always striving for new and better ways to paint, I am not trying to break any new ground and I feel it is an illusion to believe that every artist has to do so.”

Allan concludes with this thought: “An old friend of mine once said ‘Seek truth and get beauty, but seek beauty and you get pretty.’ In my paintings I want to go beyond pretty, I want to seek and express the truth of what I see, and in the process find the real beauty of the landscape. The beauty of what IS.

Please click image to see book information.