3 Da Vinci Drawing Tools You Might Not Know About

Uncategorized Jan 04, 2021

Photo caption: The Vitruvian Man is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s many drawings. Image by janeb13 from Pixabay.

It’s probably natural for most people to look at art and drawing history through a modern lens. That is to say, the tools that an artist uses shape the kind of art he or she can make.

In the modern day, we have not only traditional tools, like pencils and paper, but also digital tools, like tablets and Photoshop. Truly, drawing and drawing materials have come a long way since the great masters, like Leonardo da Vinci and John Singer Sargent, made their drawings. 

The History of Drawing: Da Vinci’s Drawing Tools

According to conservator Alan Donnithorne, Leonardo da Vinci would have made a wide variety of different drawing materials to work with. These included not only the drawing instruments, but also the paper and even some of the pigments in the drawing. 

For artists in da Vinci’s day, there was quite a lot of pre-production work - so to speak - before the artist ever started drawing. Here’s a look at some of the things that da Vinci would have used to make his master drawings. 

  1. Silverpoint on Wood: Artists like da Vinci who created silver point drawings had to follow a multi-step process to create a silverpoint drawing. First, they had to get some bone ash and blend it with a liquid - often saliva - before treating the wood tablet. 
    Once the wood tablet was treated with the bone ash mixture, it was set aside to dry. After that, the artist drew into the dried ash mixture with a silverpoint pen. It was possible to make a subtractive drawing of sorts with this tool.
  1. Colored Drawing With Silverpoint: If da Vinci wanted to make a colored drawing, then he would add some pigment, like ivory black or red lead pigment, to the bone ash mixture. He would then make stroke marks on the paper as he normally would. 
  2. Goose Quills: The modern ballpoint pen is both easy and convenient to use. You just take the cap off and start writing. However, in da Vinci’s day, pens were a little more complicated.
    An artist would take a goose feather and bake it so that the ends of it would harden. After that, the end would be sharpened into a point and eventually dipped into ink so that the artist could make his drawings. 

Video caption: Learn more about some of the art materials that da Vinci would use in this video, hosted by conservator Alan Donnithorne.

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