Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1931, David Leffel nurtured his artistic sensibility at a young age by engaging in drawing competitions with his friends. He later attended Parson's School of Design, which led to employment in advertising. Leffel, however, began his journey as a fine artist at the age of twenty-nine.
While sharing an apartment with two friends from the Julliard School of Music, Leffel was exposed to art that was not business-oriented. He quickly gave up advertising to pursue the career for which he is best known. Up until that point, Leffel had been largely self-taught, but his new path prompted him to enroll in the Art Students League in 1959. There he painted under the guidance of Frank Mason. By 1972, Leffel had become a teacher at the League, encouraging his students, as he does now, to abandon previous concepts about art.
For Leffel, each canvas offers a fresh challenge. He meets this challenge each time to create beautifully universes infused with soft light, hints of texture and wonderful detail. Each Leffel, with its interplay of light and shadow, holds one's attention with a powerful presence. In Leffel's words, "Talent is the ability to sweat, to work hard, and to produce something beautiful."
As both a painter and a teacher, Leffel has been extremely successful. In 1984 he collaborated with Linda Catewa, a former student, on the much-praised book Oil Painting Secrets from a Master (Watson/Guptill, 1995). He has earned a considerable number of awards since 1963, including the Gold Medal for Oil from the National Academy of Western Art. His works are held in numerous private collections as well as institutes such as the J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, and Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.