Learning from Leonardo

I’m teaching a three-session LearningLife course that is focused on Leonardo da Vinci’s mindset and practice as a means to exercise (and expand!) multiple intelligences through daily practice. In addition to mind-stretching assignments, the course introduces visual journaling as a tool to capture one’s creative learning journey.

We are all familiar with Leonardo da Vinci as an accomplished Renaissance master and prolific creator of masterpieces. Also well known is his forward-thinking integration of art and science which fed his practical and inexhaustible expression of creativity in many areas. While da Vinci’s genius often appears inherent (and therefore, unique to him), his mindset and practice—dedication to process, commitment to intellectual and artistic production—has lessons for anyone who seeks to be more creative.

The theory of multiple intelligences put forward by psychologist Howard Gardner connects da Vinci’s genius to a modern understanding of human intelligence: that we are gifted with an almost unlimited potential for learning and creativity. Gardner proposes that we all possess multiple intelligence-related abilities: musical−rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal, and that we exercise these abilities to different degrees. Yet, as da Vinci exemplified, creative genius is nothing if not supported by regular practice.

So, here are some of the questions this class is  taking on: Who is Leonardo? What do we know about his life and his work? What do we know of his artistic development?  What this mean for us as creative practitioners?  What action might we take in our own creative work learning from Leonardo?

There are many ways of looking at da Vinci and his work. My frame in the course focuses on da Vinci in this way:

  • Acknowledging his example as a master of the Renaissance, of embodying what a Renaissance man could do
  • An exemplar of skills and integration of lifelong learning, precision and science but also of beauty
  • Someone with a never-ending ambition in terms of artistic and scientific production and work
  • A teacher who has advice for other aspiring artists

Three ways of learning about him that Alessandro  Vezzosi points out in ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Mind of the Renaissance’ – through the words of others, through his own words, and through his works of art. We’re exploring all three of these in the course. As a lifelong admirer of da Vinci, to immerse in his work and share it with my students is a tremendous experience for me personally. Will report here in the coming weeks on what emerged from student perspectives – stay tuned!



Image: Lady with Ermine, Detail