Watch a painting unfold before your eyes

Artist David A. Leffel will paint an oil portrait of Mark Donner at Taos Art Museum


In Taos, it is a welcome sight to see artists painting in their studios, on street corners, and out on the country roads.

David A. Leffel is among those artists experienced at showing others how the magic of a painting unfolds. Lucky for Taos art lovers, Leffel will perform a live painting demonstration Saturday (April 14) at the Fechin House at Taos Art Museum, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Leffel will paint an oil portrait of Mark Donner from 2-5 p.m. The painting demonstration will take place in the Fechin Studio, which is the smaller building behind the museum next to the garden.

Leffel is a world-renowned, award-winning artist. He has exhibited widely at museums, galleries, and select institutions, such as the Salmagundi Club of New York. The press announcement states that Leffel will share his expertise in painting using dramatic light and shadow like that practiced by Rembrandt van Rijn.

His painting subject, Mark Donner, is the husband of Nikki Branham-Donner, Nicolai Fechin's granddaughter.

As for the demonstration idea, Leffel said, "It might have been Nikki's idea -- to raise money for the Fechin House. It's a fundraiser. Hopefully it will also be a fun raiser."

Leffel and his partner, artist Sherrie McGraw, moved to Taos 26 years ago. "We were looking to get away from New York City. I had been doing workshops here for Mark and Nikki at their ranch in San Cristobal for a number of years. I liked the look of Taos for its openness and its lack of humidity. I thought I'd give it a try," said Leffel.

The artist's biography states that he has many years of teaching experience at the famous Art Students League of New York and throughout the United States and abroad. On his website (, instructional books and DVDs are for sale with titles ranging from "Self Portraits" to "An Artist Teaches."

"I have painted live many times. Starting way back. It's a performance. It will hopefully be enlightening as well as hopefully entertaining," Lefell said.

This event is a wonderful opportunity for emerging and established painters or the curious art lover.

"It'll be fun. I've worked in front of audiences who were nonpainters, and they always enjoy seeing a painting unfold in front of their eyes, since people have no chance to be conversant with how a painting is done. For would-be painters, this will be a learning experience. I explain what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, so it'll be informative and entertaining," Leffel said.

The artist describes his style as that of the Rembrandt Dutch tradition; "it is heavy on the light and shadow" tradition. He paints with oils on canvas or panel. At the Fechin Studio, Leffel plans to use natural light from the skylight that artist Nicolai Fechin himself once used.

The Taos Art Museum is within the historic home and studio that Fechin built for his family between 1927 and 1933. According to the museum's website (, Fechin, was born in Kazan, Russia in 1881. He carved and molded the adobe buildings into a fascinating, harmonic marriage of Russian, Native American, and Spanish motifs. Fechin's heirs have entrusted many of his art works to the care of Taos Art Museum.

Tempo asked Leffel if the painting of Donner will result in a finished piece. "I don't really know. It depends on how well it goes. I don't work by formula like a lot of painters today do. In three hours, I could do a pretty finished painting, or a broad statement that could be finished later. I know Mark pretty well, so it could go very well. I'd like to do something pretty finished," he said.

Interested buyers can make inquiries about the painting.

The press announcement states that Leffel has a "warm and engaging manner," and he share his expertise gained over nearly 60 years of in-depth study of the foundation and true understanding of realist painting.

The artist said he is happy to be involved in this fundraiser for the Taos Art Museum. "I've known Mark and Nikki since even before I moved here. Fechin was such a fantastic painter himself and a draftsman. The museum showing his work, and other people's work, benefits everybody concerned. They give people a chance to see paintings on the wall. And I think good paintings help elevate people's spirits and enhance their lives," Leffel said.

Admission to the demo is $35, $30 for museum members. For more information, call (575) 758-2690.