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Alum Leon Rainbow Thanks Mercer for
Helping Him Shape Colorful Art Career

8/1/11


West Windsor, N.J. - As one of Trenton's premiere street artists, MCCC alumnus Leon Rainbow '01 (A.A., Computer Graphics) has the joy of seeing his art prominently displayed on the walls of TerraCycle, a recycling center on New York Avenue. His vast portfolio also includes fine and commercial art, including commissioned pieces and murals for private homes. He was recently profiled in the summer 2011 edition of Princeton Magazine in an article entitled "Writing on the Wall" by Anne Levin. (Read article here.)

Rainbow vividly recalls playing with colorful Bristol Blocks as a young child under the watchful eye of his mother, whom he describes as "an artistic soul." Years later, Rainbow's creative inclinations really began to surface as he watched movies about subway graffiti such as "Beat Street," "Style Wars," and "Wild Style." "I was hooked. Part of it was the colors," he says.

Rainbow is not a pseudonym. It is, in fact, Leon's real last name - taken from his father, who hails from the Quechan tribe of Yuma, AZ. A native Californian, Leon relocated with his family to New Jersey in 1995. First attending art school in Philadelphia, he says that financial challenges ultimately made Mercer a better option. His schedule was grueling as he balanced life as a full-time student with two part-time jobs.

According to Rainbow, Mercer gave him a "second chance" to make something of himself.

"I did not drive, so I took the bus to the West Windsor campus," Rainbow recalled. "I used my travel time to draw and study. It definitely laid the ground work for the busy life that I lead today."

The first time Rainbow displayed his artwork publicly was in a showcase at the James Kerney Campus as part of a class project. The piece was a black-and-white pencil still life. "I felt so proud. It made me believe that people might want to see my work and that it was possible for me to make a living as an artist," Rainbow recalls. "That possibility is a reality today."

Rainbow came to MCCC with little computer experience. At Mercer, he learned valuable computer software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver, in addition to basic color theory and perspective.

He singles out instructors John Paul Genzo, Mel Leipzig and Eric Fowler, all working artists. "Learning from them made me realize that it was possible to be a working artist," said Rainbow, who was named to the Dean's List several times. "I was hungry to learn. I asked them to go over things until I understood it. They challenged me relentlessly to take my style to the next level."

After graduating from Mercer, Rainbow returned to Mercer the next year to take a certificate course in Web Design through the college's Center for Continuing Studies.

Rainbow now juggles multiple work assignments, all of them in the arts. He teaches art classes for the Princeton Young Achievers at the Henry Pannell Center, an after-school program, and relishes every moment. He leads a 15-week course at TerraCycle on painting with aerosol, emphasizing current techniques in street art and art in general. And, he works as a web designer for Inforest Communications in Princeton. Others on his varied client list include Louis Vuitton, Staples, and Infiniti. He has done ads and logos for a ski resort and Blackberry. He also does body-painting.

But teaching is clearly the work that moves him most. "Teaching is such a rewarding experience. I enjoy teaching kids to think out of the box. The challenge is keeping it fun and interesting to hold their attention. Some whom I have taught have come back to thank me. It is great to see another generation of street artists start to embrace the craft, as well as other art of today."

Rainbow says he has Mercer to thank for helping him discover his passion to shape new artists.

"The staff really cared and encouraged me to stay in school," Rainbow said. "I encourage my students to make the most of their educational experiences. In this fickle economy, the more education and skills you possess, the more valuable you will be in the workforce. This is the first step toward improving the rest of your life."

To view some of Rainbow's work, visit his website here.

A happy Leon Rainbow pursues life as an artist.
Photo by A.Wilkinson | www.wilkinsonmedia.net.

Climbing the ladder as an artist
Photo by A.Wilkinson | www.wilkinsonmedia.net

"Aerosol artist" Leon Rainbow at work
Photo by A.Wilkinson | www.wilkinsonmedia.net

Rainbow's colorful resume includes body painting.

Photo by A.Wilkinson | www.wilkinsonmedia.net

 

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