By Bonnie Gangelhoff
When looking at a still life or portrait by David Leffel, there is the sense that one has stepped back in time to the era of Rembrandt and the Dutch masters. A Leffel piece emanates the same high drama of chiaroscuro—the theatrics of light and shadow employed by masterful artists that have gone before him. Leffel, a respected artist, teacher, and author, has even been referred to as “a 20th-century old master.” Leffel’s works are in major museums and private collections throughout the world. He has received numerous awards, including top prizes at the Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition held at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.
Resides: Taos, NM.
Proudest accomplishment: Learning and becoming a good painter.
What would you have done differently in your life? Nothing.
Advice to young artists: Learn to love to learn to paint. If you don’t love what you are doing, go into another profession. Ask yourself, “Do I want to pursue a career or do I want to learn to paint?” Anybody who wants “a career” is not going to learn to paint.
Motto you have lived by over the years: My father used to say, “The game is hard; nobody is barred.” Also, pay attention to everything. Don’t let a moment go by. The secret to life is paying attention.
Biggest misconception about an artist’s life: People don’t understand how hard it is—learning to paint and what a difficult pursuit it is if you do it right. The public just thinks you do whatever you want and you are just having a ball every day. They don’t understand the focus and concentration that goes into learning and doing anything well.
How has your work changed since starting out? As in anything worth pursuing, it’s about all the life experiences you accumulate. So the work necessarily changes from the ebullience of youth to the sagacity of life experience. Part of learning to paint is not acquiring more virtuosity but understanding life and acquiring more sensitivity.
How has the art market changed? Don’t have a clue. It seems exactly the same to me as when I started out. It’s changed as much as life on the planet has changed, which is not very much.
Other interests: Eating. Watching professional football. Reading—mysteries, science, and biographies.
Recent news: I have a new book coming out early this winter from Bright Light Publishing, Self Portraits: A Journey Into Insight.
He is represented by Nedra Matteucci Galleries, Santa Fe, NM; Total Arts Gallery, Taos, NM; Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art, San Antonio, TX; Whistle Pik Galleries, Fredericksburg, TX; Overland Gallery of Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ.
Featured in “Legends of Fine Art” in December 2008