Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 03: Lost at Sea

“Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and the gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of drawing.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 03: Lost at Sea

In the context of sketching he is saying that you can doodle and draw randomly ‘practicing’ as much as you want but unless you know and use the rules of perspective you will not be able to draw correctly. Leonardo went to obsessive lengths to comprehend and describe artistic perspective and beyond. From using different devices to assist, to drawing and re-drawing the same thing from different angles, to sorting it out mathematically.

This is where he was truly able to combine the elements from both science and art together. His sketches demonstrate a thorough understanding of geometry as much as anything artistic alone.

This is also what makes his sketches seem so “good” or “realistic” and what separates accurate drawings such as architectural blueprints and engineering schematics and abstract doodles. Or stick figures and the Vitruvian man. If you would like to learn how to draw or improve on your current abilities the best way to do that would be to study perspective. An easy short-cut or a jump start is to trace over photographs since they automatically provide perfect perspective. Instead of trying to draw what you see – take a picture of it, and trace over its outlines. Your mind will begin to subconsciously correlate the rules of vision to the rules of perspective on paper. More examples and advice about this will be provided on future dates and reading over Leonardo’s notebooks specifically about perspective is invaluable.

This can be applied to many things besides drawing. Playing a musical instrument, typing (pecking) on a keyboard with only two fingers, etc. If you do not have an understanding about the basics of something you will spend a lot of time wasted ‘messing around.’

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