David Leffel

David Leffel
David A. Lefffel is highly regarded and influential contemporary painter of still life and figurative works.

There is something about his still life paintings in particular that makes him one of my favorite contemporary artists. Leffel has an extraordinary sensitivity to edges, texture, color harmony and value relationships, that makes his still life subjects simultaneously lively and deeply contemplative.

His mastery of chiaroscuro is an immediate clue to the high regard he holds for the work of the Baroque masters, and his portraiture is infused with a love of Rembrandt in particular.

Leffel studied at the Parsons School of Design and Fordham University, and at the Art Students League in New York, where he encountered Frank Mason, a well known 20th century painter and teacher whose regard for the old masters was second to none.

Leffel went on to teach at the Art Students League himself for 25 years. In both his teaching and his published instructional materials, as well as his own work, he has influenced a number of contemporary artists. If you’re not aware of Leffel, but his style and approach look familiar to you, it’s likely because you’ve encountered one of the numerous artist who have been been so enamored of his work that they have tried to adopt overt characteristics of his style.

Some of those who have been influenced by Leffel have gone on to be superb painters in their own right, developing out of his techniques a mature individual style of their own. One in particular is Sherrie McGraw, another of my personal favorites among contemporary still life painters. McGraw is Leffel’s partner both in life and in a joint venture of Bright Light Publishing and Bright Light Fine Art.

Bright Light Publishing publishes books and instructional DVDs by Leffel and McGraw (as well as a few titles on Nicolai Fechin —see my post on Fechin’s drawings).

Bright Light Fine Art is a newer collaborative venture, along with still life painter Jacqueline Kamin, that provides instructional materials by all three artists by subscription/membership in the Artists Guild. I’ve recently signed up, and will try to provide a review in a subsequent post.

Leffel’s own website features galleries of his work as well publications and listings of workshops. Of the two main books available that feature Leffel’s work and teaching methods, one is specifically about his remarkable series of Self-Portraits, the other is more general and is titled An Artist Teaches.

I have not yet gotten my copy of An Artist Teaches, but I have a copy of an older book, Oil Painting Secrets by a Master by Linda Catura. In it, Catura, former student of Leffel’s at the Art Students league, has taken quotes from Leffel’s lectures and put them together with images of his work. A nice idea, but the book is severely flawed by several of the reproductions being of unacceptably poor quality. Apparently, the book was not proofed before going to print, either originally or in reprint. It’s still worthwhile for fans of Leffel’s work, but I would go with one of the newer books first. (If you happen to order your paint from Vasari Oil Colors, as I do, you can order Leffel’s two main titles, and one of McGraw’s, through them as well.)

You can find some clips from various videos of Leffel teaching by searching on YouTube.

David Leffel’s work will be on display in an exhibition at George Stern Fine Arts in West Hollywood, CA, until November 9, 2013.

Several of the works shown above (though not all) are part of the show. There is a review of the show on Fine Art Connoisseur. A new catalog, Life and Still Life, is available through Leffel’s website.

6 Replies to “David Leffel”

  1. Another fantastic post, thanks Charley !
    Usually such set pieces as these still life examples leave me less then impressed – but this art, oh boy !
    What I particularly like, and makes the work ( for me ) so appealing is the suggestion, and control of reflected and specular light from the hard surfaces – absolutely wonderful.
    I am not familiar with this artist, but wish I had been, but you have provided plenty of links to follow, thank you 🙂

  2. Nice! I particularly like the one with the green/blue bottle and the way the light is depicted in the bottle and orange slices. So quietly dramatic!

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