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Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and ArtLeonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)


Italian painter, sculptor, architect and engineer from Vinci, Tuscany (pictured right).

A big rival of Michelangelo (pictured right below).


His most famous paintings are... Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art

  • The Last Supper (1495-8).
  • Mona Lisa (1503-17).


Why was he so creative?


1. Curiosity and experimentation

His motto was saper vedere (“knowing how to see”). 

So he:

  • believed sight was the greatest of the senses, because it most accurately conveys the facts of your experience.
  • described himself as a “disciple of experience”.
  • valued observation and attention to detail.

He was incredibly curious and brilliant at experimentation.


2. Learning and self-discipline

He never stopped learning, because he loved it so much.

He learned from:Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art

  • experience (particularly his mistakes).
  • continual questioning of existing knowledge (what?, how?, and why? were his favourite questions).
  • Andrea del Verrocchio (pictured right) ,one of the best teachers of painting and sculpture in Florence.
  • seeing the interrelationship between art, mathematics and science.

Leonardo believed that:

  • an artist needs geometry to draw
  • the scientist needs to draw to illustrate his inventions.

 Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art

3. Creative imagination

Leonardo is famous for the imagination and feeling he put into his work.

He thought that an artist should draw not only people but also their feelings (e.g. Mona Lisa’s smile, pictured right).


4. Challenging goals

He always gave himself really difficult things to do.

 Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art

5. Communicator

Leonardo (pictured right in a self-portrait) believed in clear and creative communication.

His vocabulary was great and vivid, but he believed that drawing was a much more powerful communicator than writing.


6. Variety

He had two careers as an artist/sculptor and scientist/engineer, and his work in one helped his creativity in the other.

He loved doing new and different things to broaden his experience.


7. Leisure


  • had lots of time and freedom to think and be creative.
  • lived to be creative.
  • avoided unimaginative, routine work.


8. Concentration and hard work

He was totally absorbed in his work, balancing thought and action.Leonardo da Vinci - Creativity and Art

Some days he painted the Last Supper (1495-8), pictured right, from dawn until dusk.

Other times he would just stare at it for three or four days, trying to find faults in what he had painted.


9. Customer satisfaction

He painted pictures for others to admire, and his new machines (like an improved printing press) were always more efficient and easier to use.


10. Energy

His love of learning and creativity gave him boundless energy and enthusiasm.


Key quotes on learning and wisdom

Iron rusts from disuse...so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.

Wisdom is the daughter of experience.


Key quote on the learning organization

He who thinks little, errs much.


Key quote on education and training

Study without a liking for it spoils the memory.


Key quotes on success

Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.

Being willing is not enough; we must do.

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.


Key quote on the past, present and future

Be not false about the past.


Key quote on death

As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.


Key quote on innovation

If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.


Key quote on design

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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