As the world becomes agog with media frenzy surrounding the impending release of the highly-controversial movie The Da Vinci Code, I can’t help but wonder what ol’ Leonardo himself would think of all the hype. Reputed to be an extremely private person, I have to think he would be unimpressed, disinterested, perhaps even a bit peeved at the use of his name in promoting such a work of fiction. Indeed, Dan Brown’s book (and now movie) benefit greatly from the inclusion of the word “Da Vinci” in the title. After all, Leonardo Da Vinci may be the most famous artist of all time. His name has become so famous that he is now famous simply for being famous.
We live in a society where the masses seem to struggle to separate fact from fiction. Most casual non-artist readers now probably regard Da Vinci primarily as the head of some secret society out to expose a great secret hidden by the church. In this view, his art serves mainly to communicate secret messages and its value as “art for art’s sake” is diminished. This pains art fanatics like me... to think that people might be diminishing the motivations and grandeur of Da Vinci’s true contributions to art.
The fictional account penned by Brown makes a thrilling story. Yes, I have read it and I enjoyed it thoroughly… No, it does not shake my faith in any way….and quite frankly, I must admit that I personally think two of his other books, Digital Fortress and Angels and Demons, are even more intriguing. I am confused why The Da Vinci Code has become so controversial; after all, the book is a work of fiction. Dan Brown never claims to be a historian or a scholar.
Controversy aside, unfortunately for those of us in the arts, The Da Vinci Code has, in recent months, overshadowed the real contributions of Da Vinci to humanity in general and to the arts specifically.
What does all this have to do with your artwork? I’m getting to that, but first a confession. I chose to title this article "The Real Da Vinci Code" to capitalize on the cachet of the name Da Vinci. So in fact, I’m "guilty" of the same behavior as Brown. What can I say? My goal is to assist you with marketing your art. We all have to agree that Brown is a marketing genius. Why not learn from his success? So there’s a lesson for you – when possible, try to find a way to tie your own promotions in with what is happening in the pop culture in general. If you’re successful, maybe someday you’ll be famous for simply being famous…
Now, on to the “Real” Da Vinci code. Leonardo Da Vinci continually aspired to make is work excellent, and he strove to improve his work continuously. About his own work, he actually remarked, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have.” (Leonardo da Vinci). The best marketing advice anyone can EVER give you is “start with great art….and then make it even better.”
Da Vinci was also willing to do whatever it took to make his art better. If it meant learning or even inventing a new technique….he did it. (He is believed to be a pioneer of the techniques known as Chiaroscuoro and sfumato). If he needed a better grasp on anatomy, he delved into the science necessary to truly understand the human figure. In fact, as he became successful as an artist, he was given permission to dissect human corpses at the hospital Santa Maria Nuova in Florence. While that is an extreme step to take, especially in today’s society, figure painters take note – learn your anatomy!
Meet the right people. Da Vinci was well-connected with the proper patrons of his day. He garnered support of the royal, the rich and the renown. Obviously in today’s world, you are unlikely to have a patron in the truest sense of the word. But you DO need to leave the studio occasionally. Visit galleries, go to art exhibits, and attend shows (especially if your work is in it!) In short, learn to do a bit of social networking.
That’s it – the REAL Da Vinci code exposed…at least as it applies to visual art.
In summary, the real Da Vinci code is:
1. Create Your Very Best Work
2. Strive to continually improve your work
3. Meet the right people…and show them your work
4. Do WHATEVER it takes to accomplish steps 1,2, and 3
For those of you who have received newsletters from me for a while, you will recognize that these are the same themes that I harp on continuously. You caught me…I repackaged an old message under a new title that tied in with what’s happening in the pop culture. There’s a reason for that. There are no magic shortcuts. There are principles that work and principles that don’t work. Da Vinci focused on those principles that WORK and I encourage you to do the same in your art, your marketing, and your personal life.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic
PS: Admittedly, Da Vinci overshadows nearly all of us with his giant intellect. His art and his accomplishments humbled even his own mentors. One of Da Vinci’s mentors, Verrocchio, was so amazed when he first saw Da Vinci’s work that he resolved never to touch a brush again. As a true “Renaissance Man”, Da Vinci excelled in math, science, engineering, and architecture in addition to painting. While I’m not trying to make a direct comparison, take a look at the work of modern day master, Miles Mathis. His work will take your breath away. If you have time, click over to his to his science web site and try to read a few of his papers on physics. He’s highly advanced in both fields. If you’re tempted to read any of his essays about art, I’ll warn you in advance, he’s a bit of a rebel….but great thinkers usually are.
Visit Miles Mathis’ Web Site: