Stephen studied at the National Art School, Sydney (ASTC Diploma in Painting), He was awarded a Graduate Diploma in Education (University of Technology Sydney) and a Masters of Fine Art, University of New South Wales (1995). In 2013 he was awarded a Doctor of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong.
Over time Stephen's art shifted direction from a painting and drawing practice to an interdisciplinary focus. The subjective and symbolic aspects of identities in transit, themes of migration and human rights have been at the forefront of his practice.
Since 1986 he has had 33 solo national and international exhibitions, including exhibitions in museums in Cuba, New Zealand and Melbourne. Copland has been a selected finalist in the Wynne, Sulman and Blake Art Prizes.