Drawing Basics: Making Art According to Leonardo da Vinci's Motto

19 Jul 2011

Kem, 2004, 48 x 24, oil on canvas, by Daniel Maidman Hands #1, 2011, 24 x 24, oil on canvas by Daniel Maidman

Left: Kem, detail, 2004, 48 x 24, oil on canvas. Right: Hands #1, 2011, 24 x 24, oil on canvas.

I am not claiming either painting is better, but without my figure drawing practice between 2004
and 2011 I couldn't have painted the newer painting.

Few match, and I'd argue that none surpass, the genius of Da Vinci. But Da Vinci himself may not have seen it that way. It is said that his motto was Ostinato Rigore. This translates to something like "persistent rigor." Da Vinci tirelessly pursued his art, from moving line drawings to designs for incredible inventions, and allowed no obstacle or challenge to deter him.

Yes, there is such a thing as talent. There are prodigies out there in the world. But the pencil and the brush hide continents of complexity. A prodigy may pick up either one and make a great painting or draft a beautiful drawing the first time he or she tries. But to make a life of it--to produce a great body of work, perhaps to change the world as Da Vinci did--takes persistent rigor.

Beauty and truth are fine things, and they live on a high mountain. Sometimes, in the dreams of talent and prodigy, we fly up and touch them. But it is only by climbing a little bit every day that we can hope to make a home with them, and share their company for an extended time. Some people are born with talent, but nobody is born with skill. Skill is the mastery of materials and techniques, learning the basics of your art form, and there is no way to get to that level of expertise except by practicing, by showing persistent rigor.

--Daniel


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Comments

Margo5 wrote
on 19 Jul 2011 1:38 PM

Daniel, Hands #1, 2011 is so beautiful and so amazing. Thank you for sharing with us.

kerbyrosanes wrote
on 20 Jul 2011 1:19 AM

I believe the hands are among the most difficult body feature to draw. And I believe that talent is not just the key idea to become a good artist.

dmaidman wrote
on 20 Jul 2011 7:03 AM

Margo - thank you very much! And Kerby - no, it helps, but I don't think it's the core of it.

janetacook wrote
on 22 Jul 2011 4:44 PM

as you say ..Some people are born with talent, but nobody is born with skill. Skill is the mastery of materials and techniques, learning the basics of your art form, and there is no way to get to that level of expertise except by practicing, by showing persistent rigor.

I have to convey that to my students! Do you mind if i quite you on that one?

dmaidman wrote
on 22 Jul 2011 4:48 PM

I would be honored, Janet, thank you.

on 23 Jul 2011 9:51 AM

This is your best writing yet (in my opinion.) It is simple and entirely true (in my experience.) I can't take issue with a single sentence. Bravo!

And, see? I did read it "tomorrow," Daniel. But, only because I didn't realize it wasn't in the daily email Artist Daily sends - and because you sent me the message of not understanding. I went back and realized it was your blog. ;-)

FrancesS wrote
on 29 Jul 2011 6:59 AM

Thank you Daniel. I will show this to my friends who all say they could never draw adn I have talent. They refuse to listen when I say I couldn't color in the lines or draw a straight one until I started reading and taking classes adn trying over and over. Sure - talent means it comes more easily and naturally to the gifted, just as music come more quickly to me - but eve without talent one can learn to draw or play the piano with good information, teaching , and practice using the understanding one has gleaned.

Thanks again.

Frances

adrianlee wrote
on 29 Jul 2011 7:51 AM

So true about talent and learning skills of the craft.  I am almost 68 now, I draw ,paint, sew, write my whole life .  I continue to see and learn and add to my skills, everyday is a new adventure.  I take my sketchbook with me because most times a camera can't capture how I feel about an object, that little special connection!  Yes, my 'talent' has grown down through the years.  Life is a learning experience, I would not have it any other way.

kbmoore wrote
on 3 Aug 2011 9:40 AM

Can you give us a brief description of the painting process for Hands # 1