Born in Venice California, Steve Leal has been painting for as long as he can remember. Born of Mexican immigrant parent’s Jose and Maria Leal, Leal was inspired at a very young age by his fathers leather work. He watched as his father drew scroll designs and paisley motifs ,and then carved these designs into leather, just as his own father had taught him in the old days in making saddles. It was these vivid designs ,reminiscent of art deco and art nouveau, that would later develop in Leal’s work.
As he got older , Leal was inspired by artist’s ,such as, maxfield parrish, Mucha, Icart, and Erte’. At the age of 13or 14 while looking through the pages of a playboy magazine (reading) he came across the illustrations by Patrick Nagel , in the after hours section. The more modern renditions of women and cartoon quality of Nagels work was what Leal was looking for to use as frames for his fashion designs.
His interest in Fashion design, prompted him to enroll at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising). While attending school , his art work was catching the eyes of many. He decided to have a show at 19 at “Self Help Graphics” Gallery. A non profit gallery that helps up and coming minority artist’s.
Shortly after, Leal was approached by several publishing company’s. And soon signed a contract. Because of the new Art Deco trend, Leal’s work took off. At the age of 21 Leal was on his way to becoming an internationally known artist. Entirely self taught, Leal continued to develop his skills and grow. Not being satisfied ,and not wanting to become stagnant, he embarked on larger projects .
Represented by marcelli media in the early 90’s , He created 90 original paintings for the American Music Awards. The strong graphics and images created such an impact, that Leal created 75 more images for the AMA’s the following year. He went on to illustrate portraits for the Cecil B De mille Award for the Golden Globes. Such as Lauren Bacall , Robert Redford and others.
As the market shifted , Leal’s career took a turn toward interior design . After 8 years of this, and working on developing his art, He found himself looking to his roots. His Mexican heritage. He took his decorative sensibilities and love of fashion and begin to create a deco vintage look of Mexican stars of the 30, and 40’s. with Flamenco flair. Such as Maria Felix, Lupe Velez, Dolores Del Rio and so on. Painting women “ranchera” style. Earthy, strong and invincible in their beauty.