"This illness is to fatigue,
what a match is to a nuclear bomb.
It's an absurd mischaracterization!"
~Laura Hillenbrand

July 20, 2007

What I Learned from Leonardo Da Vinci

Some of you read both my personal blog and my art blog. But for those who don't, I am still so moved by doing this painting that I wanted to share this blog with you. So I have basically copy and pasted my Da Vinci blog here. I hope you enjoy it.

Another month - another Master's challenge on Watercolor's Wet'n Wild (my eBay watercolor group). And - oh my... it's Leondardo Da Vinci!!!

I love Da Vinci's ability to capture a "real" person in his paintings. Of course, his Mona Lisa is the most famous, but I must admit she never really intrigued me. (I know that may be because I have never seen her in real life.)

But a couple of years ago - my kids and I were studying World History and using a literature based curriculum. We read "The Second Mrs. Giaconda" - which tells the story of Da Vinci and how he might have come about painting the Mona Lisa. There is a lot of speculation on who she is and why Da Vinci painted her!

I was daunted by this WnW challenge... I don't paint portraits! I've tried a few - which turned out OK - but also proved that I need a lot more understanding and learning before I could ever paint a good portrait.

But, before giving up, I decided to search the web for images of his paintings. What interested me even more were his sketches. I knew he did sketches - many of them... but how interesting to try to do a "sketch" type of watercolor! Still... I can't do faces... so that seemed a little out of my reach.

Then I found a sketch that made me stop and gaze. It was a very sweet - gentle, woman's face. After a minute of marveling at her beauty - I noticed something peculiar!

The eyes were off....

One eye was looking at the viewer and the other eye was like a lazy eye - looking off to the left.

I was born with two eyes that are not coordinated - they work individually, on their on. This means that I am usually only really looking with one eye! The other eye often travels off and rests because I'm not using it.

If I hadn't had 5 surgeries as a young child, I'd be blind in one eye now. But instead, the surgeons worked on the muscles, and I had eye therapy - teaching me to use both eyes and I can still see out of both eyes. They do still travel off - especially if I am sick or very tired. But I can see fine!

But the "seeing" is only one part. As a little girl, I knew that my strange eyes threw people off (still do) - they don't know where I'm looking or who I'm looking at - and often I felt self conscious and ugly. My dimples - I thought - were my saving factor.

So I began to work on a watercolor painting that would look like this sketch (doubting I could really do it.) I created an old paper background with various watercolor paints including Buff Titanium which is opaque and Antique Gold which leaves the slightest shimmer under it's brown tone. Then I began to sketch. I was surprise how easy it was - like God's hand was in mine.

I finished it off with strokes of mixed colors to look "sketch-like" and then added some thin brushes of color for effect. I shaded with the typical Paynes grey - but overlaid that with Antique gold.

Here is the result:

It's an ACEO - 2.5"x3.5"

As I finished it - I began to cry. I realized - the beauty wasn't in her eyes - or her features at all... but in the gentleness rising out of her heart. This is what Da Vinci saw and painted in almost everyone one of his portraits. In his paintings - the Mona Lisa included - it's the beauty of the heart of the woman he was painting that shines through!

"Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God"
~1 Peter 3:4-5~

I was reminded of true beauty as I completed this painting. And the tears that welled up were because I knew - once again - that God's light in my life - creating a gentle and loving heart - made me beautiful again... even with eyes that look a little strange!

I pray that you too may experience what I experienced - a reminder of what makes one truly beautiful!


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