Just like gaming, art has always been a part of my life. As early as I can remember, there were things being painted, stitched, molded, fired, glazed, frosted, sewn, arranged, or built in my house. My mother was the one who taught me, “I can do that.”
This past weekend I visited the NC Museum of Modern Art and saw their Escher and Leonardo exhibit — both are very influential artists in my life.
Memories from my childhood are like animated gifs — only a few seconds long, but poignant.
A couple of those gifs come from a 1971, English dubbed, Italian mini-series called The Life of Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a four-hour, live action depiction of the life of Leonardo. Thrilled, but not surprised, I found the entirety of the mini-series on YouTube (Update: Sadly, this has been removed).
My father was a history buff so I’m sure that’s why we were watching, but I couldn’t tear myself away. This man was fascinating. And, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, the reason I was drawn to him was because he was also a man of science. This was brilliant — you can be both visual and scientific.
From October 31, 2015 to January 17, 2016, the Codex Leicester was on display at the NCMA. The 500-year old notebook contains Leonardo’s theories and experiments about water as well as astronomy, including inventions to perform many of those experiments.
The writing is delicate and economical on the page with a two-inch margin for tiny illustrations. Looking at the pages I was torn between, “he touched these!” to trying to absorb as much about his technique and his thinking process as possible.
When I draw, I prefer the thinnest lines and most delicate details and an economy of space with a lot of planning. I assumed this made me less of an artist because I couldn’t work on giant canvases with broad strokes, yet, here I was looking at one of the greats and I got him.
The Worlds of M. C. Escher exhibit was more extensive than I expected and contained his most iconic works from several decades of his life (1920-1970). And he continues to be a distinctive standard in both the art and scientific communities.
The exhibit was almost exclusively woodcuts and lithographs in monochrome. Looking at any of his works, you’re mesmerized by his mastery of perspective and pattern. And when you look at art like I do, with my face as close to the picture as the museum staff will let me, you see each image is composed of delicate, precise lines and wonder even more at how a human hand accomplished this.
Again, this artist makes sense to me. I love working in monochrome, creating three dimensions on a two dimensional surface, the printing process, and compositions that are precise and elegant. Escher’s work is the beauty of mathematics, my favorite subject in school.
Over the holidays my family took a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky to visit the National Corvette Museum. Inspired by our uncle, Corvettes have always been the ultimate automotive plumunique in engineering and design. But as I moved through the exhibit, over and over I found myself saying, “It’s so beautiful.”
Whether you’re a scientist or artist, go to a museum. It crosses all boundaries. See the architectural genius of Wright, the marketing illustrations of Mucha, the engineering feats of Leonardo… these are our superheroes and they inspire us in the possibilities we can achieve for beauty and good.