Tag Archives: art expo

The David Leffel encounter


Today was the Artisan expo at the Santa Fe convention center.  It was filled with great discounts on art supplies, I mean we’re talking up to 50% off!  I bought some paint, a paintbrush, some pencils, a sketchpad and a new french easel.  I’ve been looking for this easel for months and finally found it.  What makes it so special (besides being made in China) is that it’s basswood and won’t warp in high altitudes, a very strong wood.  Plus it was under $100 and a great deal.  But my favorite part of the day was attending a 3 hour workshop by artist David Leffel.  It was a portrait demo and he’s not just a master in painting, but for communicating with a curious audience that was hanging on to every word he said.  I wasn’t planning on asking David any questions, I just wanted to take notes, listen and pay attention to his demo.  But I soon decided that I wanted to communicate with him when he was talking about abstraction and how most paintings are abstract in nature.  I asked him about why all paintings are abstract.  He mentioned that the great masters have been doing it for centuries.  Rembrandt is a great example of abstract thinking.  So I thought of all the notes I took in class, what would be David’s 10 commandments of Art?

  1. What makes a great painting:  Color, Edges, Values and Paint Quality.  
  2. All painting is abstract.  Instead of copying an image, look at the parts.  Focus on the elements, not the finished work.
  3. Painting is done with the whole arm.
  4. Feel the paint, let the picture tell you what to do.
  5. Break the rules, do what you don’t know how to do, break old habits.
  6. Painting is about understanding why something works.
  7. The face is the most interesting quality of a person.
  8. When you observe the process of mixing colors, you’ll learn more than books.
  9. Let the painting tell you what to do, where to go.
  10. The fun is in the learning.


The nearly finished David Leffel Portrait Demo

The nearly finished David Leffel Portrait Demo

So you see, he was a brilliant person, speaking from the heart and many years of experience.  I learned more from him in one day than all my professors combined, seriously.  I feel like I’m a better artist after the lecture.  So much of painting is internalized and so much is mental.  David can break everything down to its simplest components and makes it easy for everyone to understand.  To me and others, we were humbled by his down-to-earth persona without that “holier-than-thou” attitude many famous artists have.  I thanked him for influencing my life so greatly in a short time period.  His approach is simplistic, scientific and made you rethink of all the things you knew before.  An amazing artist and teacher to boot, who could ask for anything more?  Thanks David, you were awsome!