The brilliant Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci, and all his contemporaries, deserve our pity. They worked without the benefit of several amazing tools that we now take for granted. These are tools I use every day and value greatly.
FOUR TOOLS DON HAS THAT LEONARDO MISSED
1 Brush pens. Sweet, juicy black lines flow out of a brush pen without the tedious and messy make-ready and clean up that a conventional brush and a pot of ink require. One can tote several different brush pens of different sizes and colors in a pocket. They never spill like a bottle of ink will. I love my brush pens.
2 Digital images. I can scan a drawing in my sketchbook to turn it into a digital image. Then it is practical to make revisions to the digital image. I remember working as a graphic designer in the 1960s and 70s when we had to wait for black paint to dry so that we could correct the image with white paint. And then we’d wait for the white paint to dry before tweaking the image with black. Switching to digital images has probably added several years of productivity to my life. Think what a time-saver it could have been for Renaissance artists.
3 Image files. Search tools like Google Images and Flickr make it easy to research what things look like in a jiffy. If Leonardo needed to see what a bat’s wing or an octopus look like, he’d have to go catch a bat or an octopus. Today we can have millions of bat or octopus images delivered in a fraction of a second.
Instant access to gazillions of images helps with research, but it also can be inspirational. That’s why I hang out on Flickr. There I can post my sketches and see what others are working on. A daily stimulus to keep drawing. (My Flickr page with its almost-daily additions is here.)
4 Coffee. Sadly, the heroes of the Renaissance never had an opportunity to enjoy a good cup of coffee. The first coffee shop in Rome opened about 50 years after Leonardo died. Think of what those masters could have accomplished with the right fuel. I know my drawing efforts are enhanced significantly by the mild stimulation of a good cup of joe.
I feel a little guilty that I have so many great tools and Leonardo didn’t. Some day, if time travel becomes convenient, I hope someone will help out those old timers. Especially the coffee.
Pittsburgh, May 17, 2017