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
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.
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.