Leonardo da Vinci claimed only that he wished to work miracles. Behind that lofty goal there were a few principles. They are as valuable today as they were in 1500. Here they are as I understand them:
Curiositia: Make curiosity the core of your life; have a personal and self-motivated quest for learning.
Dimostrazione: Test knowledge through experience; be prepared to make mistakes, and be persistent about it.
Sensazione: Refine and develop all the senses, especially sight, for the advancement and enlivening of experience.
Sfumato: Welcome and triumph ambiguity, paradox, mystery, uncertainty and contradiction.
Arte-Scienza: Understand the balance between science and art, logic and imagination, method and intuition.
Corporalita: Work on fitness, grace and poise; develop ambidexterity, multi-tasking and multi-tracking.
Connessione: Appreciate the interconnectedness of all things in natural phenomena and see the big picture.
A recent book which was not mentioned by anyone in the poll is called How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. Michael Gelb gives exercises based on the systems of Leonardo for the purpose of raising your IQ, sharpening your senses, finding out just what kind of a genius you are. I recommend it.
PS: “Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen: even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.” (Leonardo da Vinci)
Esoterica: Sfumato: It’s also an Italian art-term which literally means “smoke-like.” It was used particularly in the Renaissance to describe the uncanny and almost imperceptible gradation that some artists were able to achieve, especially in the rendering of skin.
The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities. Thank you for writing.
by F Times, Portland, OR, USA
The more I read about “consultants” — people who tell you what to do having never done it themselves, the more sense Leonardo’s success makes. You know nothing until you’ve tried it and experienced it yourself. So what do we do with art critics that don’t create anything but commentary?
Reading your letter today with respect to living like Leonardo reminded me of a couple books that have meant much to me this past couple of years. They specifically address “sensazione,” “arte-scienza,” and “connessione.” As an amateur philosopher, I have been greatly concerned with dehumanization — a process that began with the industrial revolution and has only accelerated with the coming of the information age. Two books which explore how we came to be disassociated from ourselves and the world around us, and offer remedies, are: The Resurgence of the Real — Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World, by Charlene Spretnak, and The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram. The former is fairly political; the latter is most beautifully written.
by Maria Arango, Las Vegas, NV, USA
I wanted to let you know that your latest e-mail was the best. I admire the work of da Vinci and was compelled to share your findings with my own subscribers…
Sfumato is also a term used in Italian cooking. From my experience it is a mixing together of ingredients to make a humble mash, sometimes using leftovers. I once ate sfumato di patate with a family in Spoleto, Italia. It was heavenly! But my praise was received with slight embarrassment from the family who I assumed saw it as a less than special dish.
by J Harper, Mexico City, Mexico
Leonardo da Vinci’s words are a great reminder that an exceptional life is not an accident or luck but rather the result of studying, observing, analyzing and feeding back the results in every aspect or your life. Ignoring any observations or analysis leads to sub par feedback and the lost potential of experiences.
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