Leonardo da Vinci

Art should be accessible to all students, not just the talented or well-connected few.  Child development professional Grace Lynch revealed in her article, The Importance of Art in Child Development, that motor skills, language development and inventiveness are essential developmental skills children receive when given formal training in the arts.

This art-related series was created to enlighten, and enable parents of elementary age children to build the foundation of art literacy needed for success once their students enter a middle school art program.  First, we presented the seven elements of art, then two months ago, we began a new series entitled, “Meet the Masters”. If you missed seeing those previously published articles, you might read them and the associated resource links at www.artwithmsbecky.com

This months “Master” we will be none other than Leonardo da Vinci! Leonardo had no surname (last name) in the modern sense, "da Vinci" simply means "of Vinci" his home town: his full birth name was "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci," meaning "Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci." Little is known about Leonardo's early life other than his father was wealthy and had a number of wives. Leonardo was raised by his father who was an artist and encouraged Leonardo to paint and draw. Leonardo has seventeen siblings and half-siblings. About the age of 14, he became an apprentice to a famous artist named Verrocchio. This is where he learned about art, drawing, painting and more.


Nature always fascinated Leonardo. He learned much of what he knew about nature by taking long solitary hikes in the mountains of his Tuscany home. He was never without his sketchbook and pen. Da Vinci was a solitary soul and loved being by himself. He once said, “When you are alone, you are completely yourself.”


He would keep journals full of drawings and sketches, often of different subjects that he was studying. Some of his drawings were previews to later paintings; some were studies of anatomy, some were closer to scientific sketches. One famous drawing is the Vitruvian Man drawing. It is a picture of a man who has perfect proportions based on the notes from the Roman architect Vitruvius. Other famous drawings include a design for a flying machine and a self-portrait.


Some historians believe he may have had ADD or ADHD which they think is evidenced by the fact that he finished very few projects and paintings he started. Although others believe he never intended to finish the sketches and paintings and they were merely historical data he wrote down for future reference.


Fun Facts about Leonardo da Vinci:


•    Some people claim he invented the bicycle.

•  He was very logical and used a process like the scientific method when investigating a subject. His Vitruvian man is on the Italian Euro coin.

•    Only around 15 of his paintings are still around.

•    The Mona Lisa is also called "La Giaconda" meaning the laughing one.

•    Unlike some artists, Leonardo was very famous for his paintings while he was        still alive. It's only recently that we've realized what a great scientist and inventor he was.

•    He was a vegetarian, which was very rare in those days

•    He used to spend a lot of time dissecting corpses and drawing very detailed and accurate diagrams of the human body



A Myth Debunked:


Although “The Da Vinci Code” makes for a good movie, in truth, Leonardo wrote backward and upside down not to write in code or to keep his notes secret. Most historians now understand that he was left handed. It was necessary to write that way to avoid smearing his writing as he wrote. Leonardo’s standard writing instrument was a silver tipped pen and ink. Ink sometimes took as long as an hour to dry.


Inventor Extraordinaire: 

Although many of his inventions did not come to fruition until after his death, many of his detailed sketches served as guides for other inventors in later years. Here are just a few of his better-known inventions:

•    The flying machine (also known as the "ornithopter")

•    Helicopter (Aerial Screw)

•    The parachute

•    The Giant Crossbow

•    A self-propelled cart

•    A revolving bridge

•    Clock. To put away any initial confusion – Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the clock. What he did was design a more accurate clock.

Online Resources:


Join Mati and Dada as they are magically whisked away to Leonardo’s house where he shows his scientific side.


At ArtsyCraftsyMom your student can explore everything from Fresco painting and Paper Gliding to constructing a bridge and other inventions. You can even make a diorama of the Last Supper! Fun stuff!

See Ms. Debbie and any of her trained library staff at the Wayne County Library to find any number of great books about Leonardo da Vinci’s life and work!




You can also find the Wayne County Library on Facebook:


Meet me here next month when we meet our next Master!