Diane Leon

New York City, USA

inspired at 15 by Van Gogh …

I paint in the moment; an impulse. What is revealed on canvas is made up of my feelings and memories. I look into myself for fulfillment and release. My vision is the accumulation of the things I have experienced over a life time. All my emotions are set free as color, form and texture. Creating art over the decades takes a lot of stamina. You learn to say no to the things that take you away from the studio.

Diane Leon, inspired at 15

After seeing a Van Gogh at the Guggenheim at 15, I felt these very strong emotions, like what Van Gogh might have felt while painting it. That’s when I knew that I had to have art in my life and that it would stay with me forever.

New York City has always been my home, and here, ordinary objects and images catch my eye and become something new. On the subway as I sit and roll by the station, torn posters play with the imagery. The rips and tears now give it new meaning.

Since 1970, Alicante in Spain has been a source of inspiration for me. The light, landscape and Mediterranean make it my sacred place.

At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I was around 15 when I visited the newly opened Guggenheim Museum with my father. After seeing the exhibition we walked home. I had these strong emotions about the art and that’s when I know that art would always be important in my life. It would stay with me forever. I bought paints and that’s how the journey started.

So what did you end up studying?

So, prior to 15 years old, I created childhood art and thought of my work as something to do after school. From 1974-78, I enrolled at The Art Students League. In 1986 I was accepted into New York University and worked towards my BA in art history. I continued on at NYU, Graduate School of Arts and Science for a Master’s in Humanities and Social Thought. Since 1995, I have have taught studio art as adjunct associate professor of arts a the School of Professional Studies, NYU, liberal arts degree program.

Which classical or contemporary artists have inspired you?
Van Gogh was my major influence when I started to teach myself how to paint, but over the years I felt constrained by the format of landscape. I did not want to be confined by the elements in nature so I went into an abstract style. Nature was still my inspiration, but now color and form defined the picture plane.
Other artists who have inspired and influenced me are Helen Frankenthaler, George Inness, Franz Kline and Richard Diebenkorn.
How would you describe your artistic style?

I create abstracts using color, form and texture. I do not have any preconceived idea of what I want to paint. As I work, I use a palette knife more than the brush and keep revising until I ‘feel’ it is right and finished. It is an emotional experience and not an intellectual experience for me.

When did you first sell an artwork? How did you feel?

In 1969, I sold my first artwork through an art show in the Theatre Arts Building in Harlem. It was a landscape and I couldn’t believe that somebody paid for my painting. It was icing on the cake for me. It was a wonderful feeling that somebody loved it enough to buy it.

What's your workstyle? Do you work on one piece at a time or work simultaneously on multiple pieces?

I work 2-3 pieces at a time and I prefer smaller scale work.

How do you get the inspiration for a new piece?

Since 1970, Alicante Spain has always been a source of inspiration for me. It has beautiful landscape and  light since it is surrounded by the mountains and the Mediterranean. It has become my second home now and it is like my sacred space. The nature there fills me up and inspires me all year long.

Tell us a bit about your personal life ...

I met my husband, John in 1978 while we were students at The Art Students League. We got married in 1979 and have been sharing our art and life together ever since. I grew up in New York City and have lived there all of my life. Besides teaching at NYU, I also do mentoring with the Tisch School of Art and the Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU. I have studied painting in the Pyrenees, color viscosity printmaking at NYU and color theory at The National Academy of Design.

A few pieces from Diane’s gallery

Bold Dreams


Why they love Diane’s paintings …

Phil Petruzzelli, Boca Raton, FL

“I first bought an abstract painting from Diane Leon in 2001 from a NYC gallery. I walked in and it was a large show. Diane’s work attracted me because of her use of color and the way she applied the paint. We kept in touch via e-mail over the years. Last year I decided to move to Florida and contacted Diane. After seeing all the images online, I decided to buy 5 small works on paper which were matted and 6 works on canvas. I had all the works framed and I absolutely love them! Diane is a pleasure to work with. Her colorful works fill my new home with wonderful energy.”

Veronica Shine, Alicante, Spain

“I am particularly drawn to abstract pieces that are filled with color and passion.  Diane Leon’s art work has appealed to me so much that I purchased two pieces. The works masterfully illuminate the beauty of Spain and reveals Ms. Leon’s passion and appreciation for the Iberian nation.

The paintings are so pleasing to the eye.  I have since moved to Spain and both works were shipped to my new home. They are hanging in my living room, in which my family, friends and I enjoy immensely for many years ahead.”

 More about Diane

Shows & Exhibitions

Art in Embassies Exhibition, US Embassy, Lima, Peru 2008.

High Energy Abstract Exhibition, Ward-Nasse Gallery, New York 1998.