Leonardo Quotes

Some inspirational quotes from Leonardo da Vinci:

Painting x poetry

‘Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.’

Start with a black canvas

‘A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.’

Always soar to the heavens

‘Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.’

Go out and seize your destiny

‘People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.’

Art is always work in progress

‘Art is never finished, only abandoned.’

Spend each day well

’As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.’

Spend more time alone

‘If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself. If you are accompanied by even one companion you belong only half to yourself or even less in proportion to the thoughtlessness of his conduct and if you have more than one companion you will fall more deeply into the same plight.’

Never stop learning

‘Learning never exhausts the mind.’

Study science and art

‘Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses— especially learn how to see. Realize everything connects to everything else.’

Be a doer; not a knower.

‘I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.’

Want what you can do

‘As you cannot do what you want, want what you can do.’


‘Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.’

Philosophy is learning how to die, not live:

‘I thought I was learning to live; I was only learning to die.’

Know how to steer a ship before you sail the seas

Interesting idea: learn knowledge of art before you create art. Like being a sailor who knows how to sail, before he sets to sea:

Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the
sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never
can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded
on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and the
gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of

We need to learn reasoning in art:

The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any
reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of
it without being conscious of their existence.