15 Leonardo da Vinci Quotes on Landscapes That Will Inspire Artists

Leonardo da Vinci’s dedication to observation was quite possibly his super power – or at least one of them. He noticed and recorded details of daily life that most people pass without thought. Over his lifetime, he created volumes of journals recording his observations and ideas. These observations and ideas formed the basis of artwork that is still coveted centuries later.  

The power of observation is a artistic skill. Some artists are better at it than others, but all artists rely on it. Whether you are creating photorealistic work or abstractions, you must study how light interacts with shadow, how colors combine and contrast, and how shapes form compositions. Aside from the physical characteristics of the world, artists must be observant of current events, politics, social trends and economies in order to create meaningful and relatable art.

Here are 15 quotes from Leonardos ‘s notebooks that will not only delight landscape artists, but inspire all artists to get out their notebooks and record their observations:

Leonardo on Trees

“All the branches of a tree at every stage of its height, when put together, are equal in thickness to the trunk below them.”

“The branches of trees or plants have a twist where ever a minor branch is given off, which form is a fork. The fork occurs between two angles of which the largest will be on the side of the larger branch and in proportion unless an accident has spoiled it.”

“All branches have a direction which tends towards the center of the tree.”

Leonardo on Color

“If you are on the side from which the wind blows, you will see the trees look very much lighter than on the other side. This happens because the wind turns up the underside of the leaves, which, in all trees, is much lighter than the upper sides.”

“In the composition of leafy trees, be careful not to repeat too often the same color of one tree against the same color of another behind it. Vary it with a lighter or a darker or a stronger green.”

“The definition of the blue color of the atmosphere explains why the landscape is blue or in the summer than in the winter.”

“Among the mountains seen from a great distance, those will look the bluest color which are in themselves the darkest.”

“Describe landscapes with the wind, and the water, and the setting the rising of the sun.”

A sketch from Leonardo’s Notebooks

Leonardo on Shadow

“The colors of the shadows in mountains at a great distance take the most lovely blue, much purer than their illuminated portions. It follows that when the rock of a mountain is reddish, the illuminated portions are violet and the more they are lighted the more they display their proper color.”

“Landscapes ought to be represented so that the trees are half light and half and shadow; but it is better to make them when the sun is covered by clouds, for then the trees are lighted up by the general light of the sky and the general shadow of the earth.”

“The rounded forms of the clouds that face the sun show their edges dark because they lie against the light background.”

“When clouds come between the sun and the eye all the upper edges of their round forms are light, and towards the middle they are dark. This happens because towards the top these edges have the sun above them while you are below them.”

Leonardo on Movement

“Observe the motion of the surface of the water which resembles that of hair, and has two motions. One goes on with the flow of the surface, and the other forms the lines of the eddies. Thus, the water forms eddying whirlpools, one part of which are due to the impetus of the principle current and the other to the incidental motion and return flow.”

“In representing wind, besides the bending of the bows and the reversing of their leaves, you should also represent them and amid clouds of fine dust mingled with the troubled air.”

“Both the cloud and the tree display no roundness at all on their shaded sign.”

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