Leo Kamen was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1951 to immigrants who had fled Europe after the Second World War. At the age of seventeen he enrolled in a General Arts program at the University of Toronto but left after two years, moving to a log cabin north of the city to live and work as an artist. From 1972 to 1980 he supported himself by slinging beer in Barrie, selling his sculpture at the Mazelow Gallery in Toronto, and hiring himself out as a photographer. His most notable commissions featured a series of works based on a white Arabian stallion, and another of nudes of a masseuse whose name he has regrettably forgotten.

In 1980, back in Toronto, he partnered at the Tatay Gallery for two years and then opened the Leo Kamen Gallery at 80 Spadina Avenue. Over the next twenty-five years he courted bankruptcy, survived to tell the tale and then sold the gallery in 2011. While operating his gallery he wrote on weekends and holidays. In 2010 he published Rolling the Bones: A Memoir. Since then he has completed a novel, Blue, Surrounded by Darkness, and a work of non fiction, Basic Shit: Ten Things Artists Need to Know.