As artists, we often know that our art comes from a place deep inside us. It is often such a hidden place that artists speak of ‘tapping into it’, or having a ‘creative block’. Some artists feel as though they themselves are not responsible for the art they produce, but an outside spirit moves through them. No matter how each of us relates to our core of creativity, it is a place that culminates from the complexities of our being. It is a place to be nourished and tended to.
I was blessed as a child to have a father who taught me how to tend to my creative inner landscape. I have always thought of my father as a Renaissance Man – a man who had a broad knowledge of many things, who thought outside the box and was willing to entertain new ideas. He was so sensitive to feeding one’s soul intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, that he built a room in our house that held art, literature and science. He called this room his library.
Bookshelves lined the walls, an old tapestry rug covered the floor and two soft armchairs filled the corner of the room. He had a microscope and a telescope on the corner table. Among his many books he placed an interesting collection of objects including fossils, dried butterflies and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The books ranged in subject matter from art, philosophy, geology, world history, architecture, mathematics, poetry and classic fiction. I spent many hours in my father’s library reading his book collection and pondering the wonderful objects he placed upon his shelves. Although I enjoyed learning about the world through these books, the most important realization I made was how all subject matter seemed so beautifully connected and interdependent. I developed a love for learning and a method of nurturing of my creative space.
As we know, the Renaissance was a time of great intellectual transformation. A new cultural movement embraced ideas about art, science, politics, philosophy, religion, exploration and architecture. This explosion of thought originated in Italy and fostered the growth of some of the greatest artists: Raphael, Giorgione, Titian, Michelangelo and of course, Leonardo da Vinci.
There was a new concept of artistic perfection that began in Florence during the Renaissance. The concept was of disegno –or drawing and design. There was the concept of disegno esterno or the external physical manifestation of art (the artwork), and disegno interno, or the internal, intellectual idea behind the art (the artist’s meaning and content). During the High Renaissance ‘beauty’ or perfection was achieved when both disegno interno and esterno were in perfect balance. Reaching this perfect balance in today’s world, means nurturing both.
I think living with a ‘Renaissance Approach’ means having an insatiable curiosity for everything; it means complete engagement with the present. It means surrounding yourself with people who challenge and support you. It means trying new things, keeping an open mind, and embracing your senses. It means learning everything you can about every thing.
My ideal artistic goal is to be what I call, an ‘artist complete’: one who is capable of integrating all things, seeing and thinking deeply, and translating interior thoughts authentically into art. I believe the challenge to walk closer to this every day is to live with a Renaissance Approach.
If you are interested in reading a book about the 7 extraordinary qualities of Leonardo da Vinci please check out this book: How to Think Like Leonard da Vinci, Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael Gelb.