The artwork of Virgil Stephens ranges from dramatic black and white pencil drawings to delicately hued western paintings with a few whimsical musical paintings thrown in to reflect and express his own life experiences.
Growing up on ranches in and around Globe, Arizona, Virgil spent most of his spare time drawing what life presented him. From his earliest doodling to his current pencil drawing, conte drawing, oils and bronzes he recorded the scenes both poignantly mundane and sublimely humorous that represent the richness of ranch life in America.
Raising a family didn’t afford the possibility of taking classes, so Virgil started reading books and studying paintings by famous artist and well known teachers in his spare time. Common sense convinced him the high cost of canvas and paint was money better spent elsewhere and he eventually wound up with a pencil in his hand and spent the early part of his career concentrating on fine pencil drawings.
Virgil was born with an ability to look at things more closely than his friends did, and growing up around, on top of and under horses, calves, ponies, chickens, pups and kittens, and a plethora of other non-descript mammals & unidentifiable insects, allowed him to store up details about anatomy that were more accurate than any information obtained from books.
His family processed their own meat and poultry, and he was weaned on cows milk straight from the udder and strained through a part of the screen left over from the back porch door. Deer and elk were plentiful and there was never a shortage of venison in the freezer. There were many times when saddling up to gather cattle, Virgil would stuff a camera in the saddle bags along with a can of Vienna sausages and a roll of T.P. so as not to miss an opportunity to capture a Kodak moment whenever the chance afforded itself.
Because of those times Virgil now has an extensive photographic library of cows, horses, wildlife, women and children (having two daughters and two sons), rodeo cowboys of questionable character, and other unique situations categorized in order of subject matter to draw upon when creating a piece of artwork. Although his unique imagery covers a wide range of subject matter from Native Americans and cowboys to domestic animals and wildlife, he remains true to his heritage by portraying only what he knows from first hand experience. "I love to tell stories through my art and who knows my story better than me?" he explains.
In 1992 he started sculpting in clay and has now added a line of limited edition bronze sculptures, ranging in concept from ultra-realism to stylized and in 2004 Virgil moved into the world of conte drawings & oils, as a result of studying under master painter and teacher Lou Maestas.
2005 brought an expansion into the world of musical art. Virgil grew up with music and played piano in his local church. He found whimsical music scenes allowed him to unwind and unravel on occasion from the tightness of realism.
Many times over the years Virgil has been asked to teach art, and has successfully added drawing workshops, for portraiture, horses, and also oil rub-out to an already busy schedule. The emphasis of the workshops are to teach how to see with the mind’s eye which in turn creates better artwork in drawing or painting. “There is just too much bad art out there because artists didn’t learn how to draw before they picked up a brush, and it’s my goal in some small way to change that.” says Virgil.
Virgil and his wife Emily now reside high in the mountains of southern New Mexico, in the Loma Grande mountain range at the Notevena Ranch and Art Gallery.