A healthy dose of reality


At first glance, Stephanie Chappell is your stereotypical, white, middle-class, middle-aged woman living in an English town on the edge of the commuter belt.

Stephanie Chappell

This mum and step mum takes her dogs for long walks every morning and takes an oil-painting class every Tuesday. The rest of the time she takes off from reality. Stephanie is currently creating a virtual reality experience for healthcare.

“Someone said, ‘Ooh that’s another string for your bow’.

I made my first VR experience in 2001”

Stephanie’s been at the forefront of digital graphics since before there were digital graphics. She spent over 20 years at the BBC directing ‘everything that moves’.

And she’s seen everything move from film and flatbeds to fully-immersive worlds. But to her, nothing’s changed.

“Everyone’s so in love with technology – they forget it’s just another tool.”

To Stephanie, her job is to tell a story, convey an idea, create an effect, evoke an emotion. Every day there are new ways of bringing her ideas to life, she may have to learn new acronyms and language to operate in the digital age. But she has never had to change her thinking.

Or be anything other than herself. She’s the most experienced member of the team and in many ways the mother duck.

“They text and email with all kinds of stuff. I don’t mind, it’s a bit like your teenagers, they’ll always ask me first – I’ve usually got the answer.”

But that’s not all she brings. Her dog walks across wide open fields give her a sense of space that is essential to imagine new worlds.

And capturing the complexity of something as simple as the shades of blue in the minute detail of an eye, with nothing but a brush, oil paint, and patience, informs everything she does in her work.

That blue may become a backdrop or Stephanie may zoom in on a tiny detail that enhances the whole experience.

“OK, so when I’m painting I can’t actually see the colour of the model’s eyes without going up close and squinting, so I take a photo and zoom in.”

Her Tuesday art class perfectly illustrates Stephanie’s blend of art and tech.

But it provides something of way more value. One morning a week she shares her energy with mature women, masters of their art, women with stories to tell and wisdom to share.

To most they are invisible. But to Stephanie, they are her teachers and her inspiration. The small detail that most don’t see. – the one that makes all the difference in her world.