Living the Creative Life (Part I): Leonardo Da Vinci

How do you live the creative life? I’ve gleaned tips from some of my favorite Creators. For five days I’m writing about these insightful suggestions.

History’s creative heavies often possessed uncanny premonitions of the true weight of their work. Some of them even wrote accounts of their lives as road maps for future creators. Leonardo Da Vinci, for example,  must have at least hoped someone eventually would care how he lived.  In his famous notebooks, he tells how he mastered drawing the human form.  First, he hired nudes to pose for him so he could get everything true to form.  He drew hundreds of nudes all summer long.  Next, when the days turned cold he took all his summer drawings and picked the absolute best.  The rest he tossed into the fireplace.  Then, he memorized the proportions and exact shadings of his best drawings and replicated them over and over again until the next summer. When the next summer rolled around, he hired nudes again.  But this time they we’re out-of-shape,  over-weight people, rather than the fine specimens he used before.  He drew them as they were, but also added more muscles in the right places.  When he finished these,  he held them up against a mirror to trick his brain into thinking they were someone else’s work and his mistakes would pop out for him to analyze.  The next summer, he’d begin the entire cycle once more.

Da Vinci also left 16 tips on how to live.  His suggestions are clearly meant for artists but, I think you’ll agree, they are universal for anyone wanting the Good Life for Creativity’s sake.

Check them out below:

  1. Live life mostly in your studio. ( “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones distract it“)
  2. Have work at hand always.
  3. Don’t take holidays from work.
  4. Do the most difficult part of your work first. Persevere until you work through that hard part.
  5. Take time to imagine (when you wake and right before you fall asleep).
  6. Spend winter evenings re-studying what you learned the previous summer.
  7. When the next summer comes around, review.
  8. Take walks about town and study people.
  9. Use your natural competitiveness to improve your craft.
  10. Use a mirror to trick your brain into thinking you are looking at someone else’s work, and errors will instantly pop out before your eyes.
  11. Figure out what others find beautiful and blend those ideals into your work.
  12. Arrange your room to bring out the best in your work.
  13. Learn diligence first and not rapid execution.
  14. Make your art universal– of use or appeal to everyone.
  15. Always check your art against the real thing.
  16. Surpass your teachers.

My favorites are #3, #4, #8 and $12.  Did you find any you think worth trying out? Let me know.  Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!