There is something in the work of Leslie Allen that distinctly marks her as a San Francisco Bay Area painter. Perhaps the light and beauty of the natural surroundings there inspire her. Perhaps it is the lyrical quality of the paintings – the generous divisions of space and the exuberant way colorful pigment glides across the surface either in creating clear diagonal intersections or rising loops of color. These paintings take their inspiration from the California Central Valley and the light coming in from the Pacific - from fog, rain and mountain. These are paintings from the place where Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Lobdell and others invented their own brand of abstraction. “I like to look at a landscape or a scene and squint my eyes tightly shut,” says Allen. “I try to capture behind my closed eyes the basic shapes and marks that help me begin the work.”
Born in Almogordo, New Mexico and growing up in El Paso, Texas, Leslie Allen remembers her artist mother sitting her three children down with crayons and paints. “Everyone was making something, creating something at all times.” she remembers, “Everything around us was translated into art.” Leslie moved to San Diego at nineteen and studied graphic design at the University of San Diego. Watercolor became her medium at the time and for nearly 20 years she was a member of the Watercolor Society, creating masterful paintings of leaves and rocks. Early influences included Alan Magee and Mark Adams who inspired her to look closely and pick up the subtle nuances of what she sees. Nature was at the heart of the work even then, but it was in oil painting that she found the freedom to discover her own unique style of painting.
Moving to the Bay Area in 1980, Allen took classes from Chester Arnold at the College of Marin and continued her studies at the Academy of Art. It was Arnold who encouraged her to switch to oil painting. She studied privately with the gifted painter and went on painting trips to France under his tutelage. Her years as a watercolorist had given her a steady hand and a watchful eye. She began experimenting, working hour upon hour with the oils, learning how to move paint across the surface gesturally at times, descriptively at others. Long before Malcolm Gladwell spoke of the 10,000 Hour Rule, Leslie Allen knew that mastery takes repetition and a devoted attention to what is happening on the canvas. She was determined to master her materials. Her lifelong strong work ethic has served her well. She learned to “listen to the paint,” ever aware that each mark on the canvas serves to inform the next.