Sybil Gibson was born in Walker County, Alabama in 1908. Her father owned coal mines and was a successful banker. She was a teacher before discovering her interest in art while attempting to copy gift-wrapping designs she viewed in a shop in 1963. Shunning regular art paper, Gibson used grocery bags or corrugated board which she soaked to flatten and loosen the glue. She applied tempura paints to the partly wet paper, imparting a somewhat impressionistic look at some paintings. The fluidity of the brushwork gave Sybil's style its distinctive character - remarkably controlled, graceful and sparse.
Gibson's art gained national recognition in the late 1960's, however, during the same time she was having difficulties dealing with finances, health, and family relations. She was re-discovered in 1971 living on a small pension and occasionally selling artwork. She began painting again and moved frequently, mainly living in Alabama and Florida. In her later years she lived in a nursing home in Florida and painted until she had a massive heart attack in 1994, dying in January 1995.
Her subject matter is not extensive: portraits of women, girls, children, and a few men and boys, flowers, cats, birds, and mask-like faces that appear to float, seemingly separated from a body.
It was Gibson's contention that art cannot be taught. "I consider any art lesson that I was exposed to just so much frustration... Art must come from within," she said.