Stephen grew up in Iowa. His father, an art editor for a major magazine, brought home periodicals that gave Stephen early artistic inspiration. His parents also supplied him with lots of pencils, paper, and encouragement. He is entirely self-taught.
He started his career with commercial freelance work, but became interested in children's book illustration. His first book, A Nutty Business, was published in 1973. Since then, he has illustrated over 50 titles.
He is particularly well-known for the surreal, unsettling illustrations he provided for Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series of horror short stories, still a favorite in adolescent fiction.
If you are interested in studying Steven Gammell’s art first hand, I recommend checking out the Scary Stories boxed set: Scary Stories Boxed: Set by Alvin Schwartz and Steven Gammell
A friend once told Stephen that his illustrations "looked like they just happened before you turned the page." He responded by saying:
"That statement startled me and I've never forgotten it. I have kept that in mind each time I do a book. I try to have that element of surprise and fun in every drawing. This is why I never do any sketches beforehand, or plan ahead. My desire is that it happens for me in much the same way it happens to whoever will be looking at the book." (TTLG).Here's some samples of his art.