I’ve always admired the work of renaissance master Leonardo DaVinci. I recently read his biography and felt a stronger kinship to him than I expected. I should clarify I haven’t got any illusions of grandeur and don’t think my artwork is somehow on par with Leonardo’s, but it was interesting to learn how he did considerable amount of work creating concepts for the “entertainment industry” of his time. Many pages of his notebooks are devoted to designs and sketches for costumes and props for various performances and pageants to amuse his patrons at court. This was an opportunity for Leonardo to let his imagination run wild and explains the sketches of flimsy looking flying machines and some of the more fanciful designs that don’t seem to have a chance of working in reality but look terrific on stage.

 

Leonardo’s sketches of flying machines

 

Leonardo’s observant nature and thirst for knowledge across different fields would have stood him in good stead as a concept artist. He was also more an idea man whose interest in the job seemed to fade once the concept and problem solving was done, which is reflected in the many unfinished and abandoned assignments.

Another hurdle to Leonardo finishing commissions was the fact that he was a perfectionist and had a problem calling a piece done, something a lot of artists will identify with. Leonardo obsessively worked and reworked the Mona Lisa, and took it along on his travels, and it was with him when he died on this day, May 2nd, 499 years ago in Clos Lucé, Amboise, France.

Costume design by Leonardo
Leonardo’s sketch of a Scythed chariot. Killing machine or concept art?