Of course my favorite living person would be my partner, Philippe, but long before we ever met, I’ve been a fan of Leonardo da Vinci. When I was young, I was fascinated by the reproductions of the intricate drawings from his sketchbooks. These, I would find in National Geographic magazines, art books, and encyclopedias because the internet didn’t exist yet. He was a much more prolific sketcher than he was a painter and his sketchbooks are a treasure trove of ideas. This is the unfortunately named aerial screw which many people credit as being the first time someone came up with an idea for our modern helicopter. An invention that would come over 400 years later. This one, mysteriously powered by four men working the crank at the bottom, would never have actually worked, but it’s a beautiful example of what it looks like to dream big.
Leonardo da Vinci inspired me to always look for new solutions rather than simply be content with what the world is currently delivering to me. Unlike, da Vinci, however, I would write down my ideas as words rather than images. I always envied the people I worked with who could sketch things. It seemed like such a magical ability and a much more effective way to envision ideas. My early attempts at sketching in my notes were horrific. My sketches of ideas looked like a group of stick figures got drunk at a party and decided to culminate the evening with a suicide pact. I assumed I was just a man of words and would leave drawing to those who were more talented. Until last year when I finally decided to go for it and start sketching and painting regularly. That’s when I realized something important that da Vinci was trying to teach me. Practice.
The countless sketchbooks that he filled were not only a means of getting ideas onto paper, but the very method of becoming a skilled draftsman. Looking at his earliest drawings you can see that there are hints of talent, but they pale in comparison to his later works. Heralded a “genius,” the reality is that he simply never stopped making things. If you make something each and every day, you’ll continue to improve. It’s a sinisterly simple formula. When others look at da Vinci and see someone with immense talent, they forget that they’re looking at someone who really just had immense discipline and a true passion. This is what drives me today. I’m not trying to become a great painter or sketcher so much as simply trying to learn something new each and every day. As da Vinci once said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham Watercolors: Burnt Sienna, Gamboge, and Ultramarine Blue. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.
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