» Some wonderful things I learned from Leonardo da Vinci

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Bike LogoSome wonderful things I learned from Leonardo da Vinci

He wrote backwards, from left to right! He was left-handed and always started every page from the right side and wrote to the left. When viewed in a mirror it reads in correct Italian even with the correct angle to the letters. I am sure he did this to avoid smearing his ink so he could write very quickly, a hard thing to do for a left-handed person.

Perhaps I was most impressed by some of his simplest inventions. I was intrigued by his ways of looking at geometry, using an angled compass to create an ellipse, using a compass and straight lines to create a parabola and his descriptions of all perfect shapes. His study of human proportions has always intrigued me and today’s exhibition showed these well.

I was also intrigued by all the devices and tricks he used in his masterful paintings. He understood the geometry of perspectives so well. He also used color and fades to show distance. He worked so hard at understanding facial expressions and movement and catching movement at a crucial moment to magnify and catch a vibrant activity or explosion of energy. He understood and drew over and over again faces in anger, in shock, in reverence, in laughter, in awe. His painted faces and activities still inspire us and speak to us through the ages; faces that still seem “alive” 500 years later. Many of his paintings had curious hidden elements that still remain puzzling today: the painting of Madonna and Child, St Anne and John the Baptist that initially looks very normal but has a leg one cannot tell to whom it belongs; the battle scenes with hidden elements of bestiality, the scenes with missing elements or a strange person or element added – no one quite knows the reason or origin.

And, of course, one has to be extremely impressed by all his machines and inventions. I thought the exhibition did a wonderful job of showing some of the other engineers, explorers, artists, architects and inventors of the time and how de’Vinci took his inspiration and endeavors from others of his time. It certainly was the age of machine and invention without motors, engines and brute force. How well he understood pulleys, wedges, wheels, levers and how to magnify simple forces so immensely and to use these to create opposite forces, reciprocating motions, lifting, spinning, rotating, cutting, pushing and pulling actions. I was perhaps almost equally impressed by the people who had taken all his writing and notebooks to create all the beautiful full-sized replicas of so many of his inventions. They were all shaped in wood and beautifully explained the activity of each, even when the application of the machine was not particularly obvious.

Leonardo also worked at great scale as we saw with his horse sculpture for square in Florence.

This exhibit in San Jose, California truly limbered up my thinking and intrigued my creative efforts.

What inspires your creative efforts? And intrigues your designs and enhances your thinking?

What exhibits have you seen that makes you wish to make a difference in your environment or to develop a new tool or skill?

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Wed, January 14 2009 » Inspiration

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