Even though they are impressive, the botanical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are not highly publicized. Partly because there are only few of them and partly because, in the spirit of that time, they were conceived as preliminary sketches for paintings, and not as drawings in themselves or as in-depth botanical studies.
In fact, not for his mastery in art, drawing and painting, Leonardo is so appreciated. After all, there were artists who drew better than him at that time, the painting techniques related to his name were used by others too, maybe even better, and if you analyze his work more carefully, you can see some clumsiness and even mistakes that do not justify putting him on a pedestal so high as an artist. He didn’t even put art al primo posto among his interests, I tend to believe that he considered painting as a boring and somewhat frivolous activity. In his letter to Ludovico, the Duke of Milan, his ability to paint was mentioned only as a footnote, with a clear intention to give a more practical use to his work, if it was to be employed by the Duke.
First and foremost we admire Leonardo for his Notebooks, because they reflect what some would call “the divine manifestation in man”. The man who, being given by natural evolution with this gift called consciousness, used it to look closely at the world and learn more about it. Sometimes with a purpose, but most of the time just to satisfy his curiosity. I’m talking about that part of the man that drives him to embark on a raft to see what is beyond the sea, to look from a new perspective at something considered trivial and thus making the greatest scientific discoveries, to unravel the language of the universe, to make him try to become an interplanetary species. That part of man.
The fact that Leonardo used drawing to express his thinking is a gift, unintentional of course, for us artists. It is a suggestion for us that we can use art not only for decoration, but also for exploration.
Because this is a drawing class, of course we will study the techniques here, but this is what we must always keep in mind about the value of Leonardo’s work: that it is not about drawing with a pen or using sepia ink, tinted paper, a certain type of hatching or the way he applies the oil in its paintings. Those are techniques that can be analyzed and can be easily imitated. Not even the fact that he was a Renaissance artist matters that much, there were better artists than him from that period who did not reach his fame. Its value is given by the essence, it is that way of thinking that defines us (or should defines us) as a species and through which we have reached this incredible point where we have the ability to understand, remodel, sometimes reinvent the very nature that created us.
The first thing you notice when you look at Leonardo’s botanical drawings is that they do not look as fine as the anatomical drawings.
The line is very thick and some parts are unfinished on the one hand because… [Read more]
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This tutorial is compose of two parts:
How to Draw Flowers like Leonardo da Vinci – Part I – I describe the techniques used by Leonardo in drawing botanical subjects and I will provide you with a series of exercises to practice them
How to Draw Flowers like Leonardo da Vinci – Part II – Video tutorial on copying few of Leonardo’s drawings, practicing thus on his floral subjects and seeing very specifically how he used these techniques. Digital downloads available.