What Leonardo Da Vinci teaches us about creativity

September 17, 2022
9 min read
Jair Lucena
Written by
Jair Lucena
What Leonardo Da Vinci teaches us about creativity

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What Leonardo Da Vinci teaches us about creativity

What Leonardo Da Vinci teaches us about creativity

September 17, 2022
What Leonardo Da Vinci teaches us about creativity

Since humanity began, man has sought to understand life, nature and himself. Contemplating the mysteries of existence; What is creation? How does it take place? Where does true originality emanate from? Such questions are nothing more than a consequence of our inner search for purpose and understanding.

For centuries, artists, scientists and mystics have walked a path of exploration and contemplation, attempting to find the real source of creativity. Seeking different ways to connect with the deeper meaning of life and the inner attitudes that will help humanity to transform its realities, and eventually the world.

Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), one of the most creative human beings in world history, was among such great leaders of innovative thought who explored and surpassed some of our known limits, allowing us to access great insights in the creative process while at the same time, enjoy his life work through immortal art pieces, innovative theories and creations.

The purpose of this blog is to share a series of seven different attitudes that Leonardo developed and followed religiously throughout his life. Methods which not only serve us as an inspiration and guidance in the process of creation, but also set the standards on how to live in awe and openness towards life itself.

These are the seven Da Vincian principles:


Curiosity is the natural driving force that man is gifted when first entering the world. We are born with a thirst for knowledge, for experience, for understanding and interaction. Children are the most obvious example of this principle.

Curiosity was for Leonardo the very fuel of all his creative machinery. He used to take long walks in nature and wondered about why things were the way they were. How birds could hold themselves up in the air or why thunder takes longer to be perceived than lightning. His intense longing to understand every phenomena was the very first step towards many of his discoveries. As he stated: “the natural desire of good men is knowledge”.


The unstoppable commitment to put knowledge into practice was the base of Leonardo’s lifework. He learned that direct experience is the very source of wisdom and trained for several years under the supervision of the painter and sculptor, Andrea del Verrochio. His master put special emphasis on practice rather than theory and, during this phase of Leonardo’s life, he mastered several painting techniques and learned everything he needed to know about perspective.

Leonardo considered himself to be a “discepolo dell'esperienza” or disciple of experience, and he believed that if someone copies another person’s way of doing things, he won’t be a son but a grandson of nature; in other words, he encouraged himself and people around him to find their own definite answers and to question every second-hand conception they have about themselves and reality.


The refinement of the senses was tremendously important for Leonardo Da Vinci. He trained himself to develop his perceptual capacity in a very rigorous manner, almost as an athlete trains his body for professional competition.

In his opinion, sight was the most important of all senses. As a painter and as an acute observer, he used to spend hours watching the Italian countryside in order to capture the essence and details of every object, colour and shape. To him, “the eye encompasses all the beauty in the world”. Hearing was his second predilection, and he was known to be a proficient musician, who played the lyre and sang beautifully with no previous preparation. To him, music was the food for the spirit.

Reflecting on human nature, he said: “An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking”. 

Unfortunately, times haven’t changed for the better since Leonardo’s days. Although technology has enabled us to develop incredible capacities, it has also bombarded our senses with irrelevant information, dulling our capacity to be aware, even more so than in the 15th century.


Sfumato literally means “becoming smoke” or to vanish, and this is precisely what Leonardo experienced after practising the three previous principles. Sfumato is to become transparent to life, embracing all its sides, all its ambiguities, paradoxes and extremes. He used to draw and paint from the most beautiful to the ugliest, the sweetest to the rawest, the most peaceful to the most violent and the most loving to the most hateful, without taking any sides, without having any preferences.

He made Sfumato into a painting technique in which he brushed very thin and numerous layers in order to allow his models and the background to become one, to express something deeper. We could see such examples in his famous paintings Saint John the Baptist and his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.

This capacity to become transparent is the skill to forget about oneself, to become one with what is seen and experienced, to be open to life in all its majesty, to live in the unknown, in the uncertainty, a place where true creative potential lies.


In general, when we think about artists and scientists we tend to place them in exact opposition to each other. This perception only shows the way we perceive our own brain structure and its hemispheres.

Leonardo built the bridge between these apparent opposites as he not only produced incredible art pieces but also studied anatomy, mathematics and physics, created revolutionary artefacts, and set the foundations for many inventions ahead of his time.

He knew that true painters need to know about anatomy as true scientists need to develop their intuition and sensorial knowledge to understand the mysteries of the world. Truth and beauty were closely connected to him and he promoted both through the use of creative brainstorming and mental mapping as a way to enhance our thinking processes. 


Leonardo mastered his body. He continuously developed his physical strength, wrote and painted with both hands, and spoke about the importance of exercising and having a balanced diet to attain longevity.

Below, some examples of his simple but useful advice:

  • Be cautious of the effect of your bad temper and avoid sadness.
  • Rest your mind and keep it in high spirits.
  • Cover yourself well at night.
  • Exercise with moderation.
  • Run away from restlessness and pay attention to your diet.
  • Eat only when you feel like it, and don’t eat too much at night.
  • When you stand up from the table, keep your back straight.
  • Be aware to not look down too often.
  • Drink wine and then water, a bit at a time, never with an empty stomach.
  • Eat a vegetarian diet.
  • Chew well.
  • Go to the toilet regularly.


Conessione speaks about the interconnection of all things. Leonardo was fascinated by all phenomena and was very proficient at finding relationships between things. For instance, he compared the way ripples dissolve in water to how sounds dissolve in air, he observed how river currents help to form mountains and how they also destroy them. He wrote: “Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns into everything”.

Through his way of perceiving the world, he invited us to find connections between different things that are seemingly not related but, in truth, are united in essence. The more he explored, the more he found himself captivated by the mystery of life and the beauty of all things, which he believed to be one and the same.

This quality of finding relationships between it all, is one of the most important aspects in the life of a great genius, who pursued truth and beauty through discipline and playfulness. Passionately developing his human qualities to a superhuman extent, he walked through territories not yet explored to find love and oneness in every corner of life, and to leave a legacy that we can apply now to our daily lives.

Jair Lucena

Jair Lucena

Jair is a traveler, writer, and yoga-meditation teacher-practitioner. Who loves to explore different lands, cultures, and ways of being. Connect with him on Linkedin

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