Venturing into the field of Fine Arts demands that the artist is ready to draft and develop ideas into an exploratory artwork as the final product. Experts in this field observe that the work of art is an iterative process meaning that it is not a diving feet-first affair, but a seamless process that will demand a series of sketches, brainstorming ideas and then drawing the artwork intended. Complex and large works require patience and a lot of mastery and maybe at some point the aspect of a natural genius. Engineers and inventors fall into this bracket of people that express their mind through the process of drawing to image and bring forth to life their technical ideas. Leonardo da Vinci qualifies and fits into the description of the qualities highlighted above, as he was an award-winning artist having created numerous drawings spanning from anatomy to mechanical images. Up to date, Da Vinci remains as one of the most celebrated artistic engineers that the world ever had. Born in 1452 in Italy, Da Vinci grew to be an open minded, boundless, inquisitive and a self-taught engineer and a practical dreamer who endowed a restless mindset. He became an engineer before the invention electricity and more than 100 years before Galileo discovered ways of measuring time.
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From his tender age and through his promising career as a military engineer, Da Vinci revolutionized and designed most of the machines used during the war. Through the experience he gained during this period, he based nearly all his creations off nature, used the military strategies of war design and modified his new inventions. His artwork reflected a man that was talented, who had mastery and insignificant wisdom as he drew intricate designs that his peers and colleagues could not comprehend. He desired to create new machine and equipment for the new world and generations to come. He applied his drawing, perspective, and technical skills in his career that earned him a noble pay than that of an artist, working as an engineer for several years. At the time of his advancing career, there was a growing need for engineers in Milan who were to be tasked with designing military fortifications as the region was facing war from her neighbors. With his desire to work as an engineer and artistic prowess, he found this as ripe opportunity to venture and help his warring country.
His mastery would make a man sought after by all his employers across the globe. His sketches and final work proved his creativity enviable by many especially the military department. For instance, his weaponry designs such as the crossbow and military tanks, submarines, catapults, and machine guns proved his vast ingenuity for warfare. He had an interesting life that was perhaps influenced and motivated by flights and warfare. He loved to watch flying birds, and this may have influenced his aircraft designs. Da Vinci drew complex aircraft that himself would not find it easy to fly. At the time, the concept of flying was rare among many jurisdictions, and this again proved his mastery in technical and anatomy drawings. The design showed that it was possible to create intricate humanoid machines. Other than in the field of warfare, Da Vinci managed to express and venture his mastery in artwork designs into other fields such as Engineering.
Through his successful career as a military engineer, he became one of the most sought-after technical engineers by many governments and individuals who traded weaponry. The traders were sure that his drawings were accurate and highly detailed and thus would be used to make befitting weapons. While still in the military, he took pride in his artistic work and concentrated in making more sophisticated designs and improve his past work. Da Vinci made designs that even in the 21st century would perhaps seem impossible. Most of the military assets used today are part of his designs or an improvement of what he had created. One of the most celebrated designs was known as the assault boat made specifically as a tool for strategizing war by the navy. His main approach was to make a design that would threaten the enemy even before they could get into war. Many of his critiques at the time thought of the design as a mediocre compared to the numerous designs he had crafted earlier. Another impactful design he created was the military tank whose design was thought out of a tortoise’s shell. It is from this design that many of the war tanks in use today are drawn from. The tank was simple in design but complex to use. It would be propelled forward from the inside. On the top, the tank was slanted and reinforced with heavy metal to protect soldiers from the oncoming fire. At the bottom of the tank were small portholes that allowed users to return fire from the inside. At the top too were portholes that allowed the tank commander to command the tank to the safe directions.
As his art was inspired by the environment, he managed to come up with the giant crossbow, that was also as taunted as part of his great artist and technical works. In initial stages, the bow seemed improbable amongst many of his targeted users, but he was, however, able to convince them by bringing it to life through improved designs. He made it so sophisticated that he shifted from his initial idea of throwing large arrows to throwing bombs and firing rocks. The crossbow was 27 yards in length and was fitted in sizeable wheels to ease its mobility. From this drawing, his skills became unparalleled and improved his stakes as the most sought-after engineer. Many engineers of the time found his work unique and inspired many to innovate designs that are in use today.
From his love for nature and constant fascination with birds, he designed the first airplane famously known as the ornithopter, an engineering drawing that he borrowed from his love for bats and kites. His flying machine had a wide wingspan that exceeded 33 feet; its frame was made of pine covered with raw silk to create a sturdy but light membrane. He endeavored to make his drawings come to life and work out efficiently as much as he could. He strived to make the Ornithopter fly, and surely it did. It is from his work that other aircraft engineers borrowed to make what we have today. In his design, Da Vinci had his pilot fly facing down, at the center of the aircraft. The pilot would continuously pedal the crank to power the wings. The wings would make the aircraft rise and propel in the air. However, the design was accused of lacking enough energy to fly the aircraft without much effort from the pilot. If the design was to have the ornithopter to fly from an elevated position, then it would have more success than fling the ground. Later he designed and invited the Ariel Screw, which is similar to today’s helicopter. Much was not put into the design as he concentrated much on the ornithopter. Again, this was another excellent proof that the renaissance man was able to do wonder even with his little exposure. The model worked prudently well eventually after it was tested and fully developed in modern society. The models worked well with little improvement, an indicator that the designs were well thought out with the ability to withstand the test of time.
Da Vinci is also credited for incredibly creating the drawings of the human body commonly referred to as the human anatomy. During his era, the ability to construct a detailed drawing of the human body was rare and extremely difficult. From his mastery and convincing drawing skills coupled with his mechanical engineering knowledge, he made his first design of a robot. He borrowed from his vast knowledge of pulleys gears and weights to create functioning robots. One of his well known and famous robotic designs was referred to as the Robotic Knight. The engineering design is still one of his famous automated inventions up to date. It was designed for entertainment purposes for pageants in Milan. Much of the technical approach is still what is borrowed by many engineers today to develop their fully automated robots and other related machinery The Knight Robotic would stand and sit but would not walk.
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Other than the military equipment, Da Vinci is credited for major historical drawings such as The Last Supper, Monalisa, the Vitruvian Man, Muscles of the Torso, Horse Studies, Water Lifting Devices, the Portrait of Isabella, Codex Forster among other drawings that have remained admirable across the ages. Most of his drawings and designs were never published, built or financed by the governments of their time. Many of his futuristic ideas could not have been developed at the time and supposedly took more than a century to be re-invented. Some of his drawings are preserved in archives scattered around Europe. Part of his sketches and ideas of the invention may not have been archived resulting into a minor impact on the world’s history. His contribution to the technological growth was significant and still impacts the technological advancements today. Engineers still borrow from his ingenuity to develop ideas that are useful in today’s market.
Conclusively, through his illustrious and passion in his military career, Da Vinci was able to master his artistic profession. He designed incredible pieces of work that were enviable during his time and which are significant to the current generation of artists and Engineers. His unparalleled talent coupled with a deeply imaginative mind remains an inspiration to most artists in the field of the 21st century. Some of the outstanding tools that he will remain to remembered for include the Knight robot and the military tank that most of the developers have borrowed from. Every engineer who wants to grow uniquely and prosper in his profession must have a good relationship with the works of Da Vinci as he remains a global inspirer of the field. Despite part of his works being undocumented and some of his ideas not being fully developed, history will never forget the impact he created both in the world of arts and engineering.
- British Library. Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. 2018. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/leonardo-da-vinci-notebook. 28 January 2019.
- “Leonardo Da Vinci: An Inventor Ahead of His Time.” The Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.
- Sierzputowski, Kate. Recently Digitized Journals Grant Visitors Access to Leonardo da Vinci’s Derailed Engineering Schematics and Musings. 5 September 2018. https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2018/09/recently-digitized-journals-by-leonardo-da-vinci/. 28 January 2019.
- Sniderman, Debbie. Leonardo Da Vinci. 2 April 2012. https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/history-of-mechanical-engineering/leonardo-da-vinci. 28 January 2019.
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