Born in a middle-class Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood, David A. Leffel began drawing at about age 3. This continued through high school and then into the Parsons School of Design in New York City where he studied advertising design.
On the advice of a friend, Leffel attended the Art Students League of New York, then entered the art world as a fledgling painter. In 1972, the Art Students League beckoned once again and he returned as an instructor for 20 years until moving to New Mexico in 1992. Today he conducts workshops throughout the United States and Europe, leading to many group and one-man exhibitions.
Leffel was the 2016 Prix de West Purchase Award winner for his painting Jonathan Warm Day Coming. In 2003, he participated in a Chicago, Illinois, art show with Hovsep Pushman and Sherrie McGraw, and also presented a demonstration for the American Society of Portrait Artists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Art Club in 2011.
Leffel has been featured in articles and on the front cover of Fine Art Connoisseur and Linea magazines, and is the subject of the documentary film David A. Leffel: An American Master.