Arts Creativity

Study of five grotesque heads, 1493


From the 16th to 18th century, Leonardo da Vinci’s grotesque sketches from the High Renaissance period in 1493 were his most emulated and celebrated works of art. Wrote art historian Kenneth Clark: ‘For three centuries they were [seen as] the most typical of his works. Today we find them disgusting, or at best wearisome.’

The beauty is in its strangeness. Why did we ever lose our taste in monstrosities?

Arts Books

The imagination of Leonardo da Vinci

“To truly be creative, you have to work across disciplines,” says author Walter Isaacson on Leonardo da Vinci’s creative genius.

After five years of writing and research (‘gathering string’) comes the eponymous book Leonardo da Vinci, due out this October but available for preorder on Amazon.

Two things stuck out at the most in the above conversation:

  1. Even Leonardo da Vinci left projects unfinished. He didn’t have the luxury of a Steve Wozniak to execute all his ideas. Nevertheless, the art of delay means that procrastinators can still be finishers.
  2. Some say the Mona Lisa is really just da Vinci in drag. Leonardo was gay, and Florence, where he resided, was a safe haven for homosexuals.
Photo Challenge Photography Poetry

Gathering string 

Photos by Wells Baum

I perceived a delta flanking amid the rocks, even before the slightest flash of interpretation.

Sight precedes inquisitiveness.

“Describe the tongue of a woodpecker,” howled Leonardo Da Vinci, standing atop the forest trees.

Curiosity drafts for curiosity’s sake. We can all spot patterns in a state of wonder.


Leonardo da Vinci’s resume, distraction as an ‘obesity for the mind,’ Einstein’s celebrity, new tunes, and more!


Links Worth Reading

Leonardo da Vinci’s resume

“I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.”

So wrote Leonardo da Vinci in his resume to the Duke of Milan. Your future employer cares less about what you’ve done and more about you’re going to do for them. Da Vinci mastered the art of selling himself through his resume. Might we learn from him 500+ years later?

Matthew Crawford: ‘distraction is a kind of obesity of the mind’

The philosopher William James once said “What holds attention, determines action.” He lived mostly in a world of silence, before the instant distraction of buzzing cell phones and pop-up messages. You can throw your phone into the ocean, or you can search for silent areas such as the business-class lounge in the airport. In short, “Silence has become a luxury good.” Or as Chad Wellman recently wrote in his 79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation,

“We should evaluate our investments of attention at least as carefully and critically as our investments of money.”

If time is money, distraction is the accumulation of pennies.

Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman?

Einstein was a genius, no doubt. He also happened to have crazy hair and a “way with words.” But how much of his celebrity was due to his timing with the proliferation of mass media: newspapaper, radio, and TV? Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes and was equally genius but she was a woman.

“Had he lived in another era, Einstein might have been a decent physicist, but he wouldn’t have been the Einstein we know.”

That’s Hollywood.

How a bee sting saved my life: poison as medicine

Venom saves lives. Ellie Lobel curbed her Lyme’s Disease by accidentally getting stung by a swarm of bees. Now she uses them to sting her on purpose.

“Rare cases like Ellie’s are a reminder of the potent potential of venoms. But turning folk knowledge into pharmaceuticals can be a long and arduous process.”

Meanwhile, “an airbag saved my life.”

The colors of paintings: Blue is the new orange

According to data blogger Martin Bellander who downloaded and studied about 130k thumbnails, the color blue became a popular painting color in the 20th century. He notes one possible reason for the rise in blue.

“Blue has historically been a very expensive color, and the decreasing price and increased supply might explain the increased use.”

Blue was my favorite growing up. As the Observatory podcast explains, the color blue is soothing like a Tiffany’s box, or hospital scrubs.

New Music

Episode 49 | Tunes of the Week

  1. Throwing Snow — Lumen
  2. Mikos Da Gawd — Shaku
  3. Electric Wire Hustle — Golden Ladder
  4. Ruff Draft — Broken Tooth
  5. Braille — The Cat’s Gone Nuts

> Listen

Thought of the Week

Buysness is…

“a boast disguised as a complaint.” – Tim Kreider

Creativity Quotes

Leonardo Da Vinci’s curiosity


“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Most people confuse procrastination with doing nothing. But for Leonardo, daydreaming was work. As Walter Isaacson’s mentions about Leonardo in his new book, “procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: It involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the various ingredients to simmer.”

Never stop gathering string. Chase your sense of wonder, even if it means leaving some projects at the side.

Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy

Leonardo Da Vinci: “Art is never finished, only abandoned”


Art is never finished, only abandoned

Leonardo Da Vinci