Profile: Leroy Allen (1951-2007)

Leroy Allen was an award-winning watercolorist and figurative artist. His realistic style focused on African American life and community, and won him more than 30 art awards nationally.


Allen was a Kansas City, Kansas native. He received his first art prize in the second grade when he won a National Scholastic Art Award for a crayon drawing of a horse show called “At the American Royal”. During high school, Allen was hired by the Progressive Shopper News, a black-owned monthly newspaper, to draw a weekly cartoon column. The cartoon was about a character named Sly, an unsuccessful criminal, and was used to discourage young people from a life of crime. In high school, the comic series Allen created became a comic book.

Allen joined the Army and served in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1972.

Upon graduation from the University of Kansas School of Fine Art (BFA, 1977), Allen was hired by Hallmark Cards in 1980, where he became a technical supervisor. Over the years, Allen worked with and exhibited with noted Hallmark artists including Thomas Blackshear, Nancy Devard, Henry Dixon, Shane Evans, Cathy Ann Johnson, Jonathan Knight, and Dean Mitchell. He retired from Hallmark Cards after 24 years.

Of Allen’s artistic skill, New Orleans art critic Doug MacCash wrote: “Although many people think of watercolor as the genteel choice of Sunday painters, it may actually be the most difficult artistic technique to master. A great watercolorist is able to create a painting with such economy and deftness that the hand of the artist is almost unnoticable – a feat akin to walking across a snowy field without leaving footprints. Both (Leroy) Allen and (Dean) Mitchell can do just that.”

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