Personal thoughts on Essence of Da Vinci

Whenever I give talks, at conferences for example, I’m invariably asked for copies of the slides I’ve used. These are almost always a collection of pictures and quotations, and the talk uses these as a backcloth to stories through which I share ideas.

I guess it’s nice to be asked for copies, but I usually refuse. Not because I don’t want to share, after all the whole purpose of travelling to the conference was to share ideas, rather I worry at the motives of the requestor. If they’ve understood what I’ve been talking about, they don’t need the slides, and if they haven’t understood, they don’t need the slides. It seems to me that the presentation was the purpose of me travelling. Whatever was going to happen or not, would happen in the auditorium, not days afterwards leafing through notes. Yet still the requests came.

I similarly resisted collecting the quotations in a book. Quotation books are usually such dry loveless things, with the quotations appearing to have been swept up in a net and thrown onto the page, however two ideas came together to change my mind. The first came from a book by Michael Gelb ‘How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci’. In this book he describes seven characteristics of Da Vinci’s thinking style. I enjoyed the book and thought that these seven characteristics would make good headings for chapters on creativity.

The second idea came from learning of the left and right brain split and the thought that quotations are means to inspire and set you thinking, yet when you read text it’s the logical left brain that you speak to. I thus had the idea that if you could combine inspiring quotations with drawings that appeal to the intuitive right brain, perhaps the product would be much more appealing and far more effective than traditional dry lists of quotations.

To these two ideas I added the requirement that the book would only contain quotations that moved me personally and the framework for Essence of Da Vinci was put in place.

I gathered together a selection of my very favourite quotations under the chapter headings and then thinned them out leaving only the very best. The fun part was then creating drawings that would compliment them. Sometimes the drawing was used to underline or reinforce the message, other times to contrast with it. As I got into the swing of things some drawings were created to pose questions of the reader, to ask them how the drawing and quotations interacted.

I produced all of the drawings myself and have a few favourites. The Ying and Yang pictures on page 113, The ‘odd one out’ of Albert Einstein on page 46 and Michelangelo’s light bulb on page 31.

Of all the books I’ve created this one probably pleases me the most in that it is the finished book is the closest to the book I imagined at the outset. It also brings together form and function really nicely, a truly creative stimulus to creativity, and that feels good.