Early life and training
The Royal Academy at
, where Stokes studied in the 1930s, and in the galleries of which her works were exhibited in 1953
Constance Parkin was born in 1906 in the hamlet of Miram, near
Nhill in western
Victoria. The family moved to
Melbourne in 1920, where she completed her schooling at
Genazzano convent in the suburb of
Kew. Constance was short, just under five feet tall, and had dark hair. She trained between 1925 and 1929 at the
National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne. Over the summer of 1925–1926 the Gallery held a competition for its students, who were asked to paint "holiday subjects"; Constance won the prize for a landscape. The competition was judged by artist
George Bell, who would have a continuing influence over her artistic career.
In 1930, Stokes was among artists who exhibited at a Melbourne gallery, the
Athenaeum. Her painting, Portrait of Mrs. W. Mortill, was one of only two to draw praise from prominent member of the
Arthur Streeton, who described the work as a "rare attraction" that was "liquid and luminous".
 At the end of her studies, Stokes won the National Gallery of Victoria Art School's prestigious National Gallery Travelling Scholarship, which allowed her to continue her training at the
Royal Academy of Arts in London.
 In addition to her education at the Royal Academy, she studied under the French
cubist painter and sculptor
André Lhote in Paris in 1932. The following year she returned to Australia, where she married businessman Eric Stokes. The family settled in
Collins Street, Melbourne, and Stokes had three children between 1937 and 1942. In later years, Stokes had a studio in the family home in
Toorak, a modernist house designed by architect Edward Billson.