Back in the early 1500’s Leonardo Da Vinci was busy filling notebook after notebook with all his accumulated knowledge on painting, anatomy, mechanics, hydraulics and pretty well everything he observed.  One of the greatest thinkers of the renaissance, Leonardo probably never imagined his notes would be translated, digitized and made freely available to artists in the 21st Century. Yesterday I downloaded iBooks to my iPhone, and there for free, in the iBooks download section, was “The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci – Complete” thanks to the efforts of Project Gutenberg.

It makes fascinating reading and is packed with practical methods and techniques used by Da Vinci’s in his paintings and drawings.

Here is his technique for checking that a painted shadow is the right color.

“When you draw a figure and you wish to see whether the shadow is the proper complement to the light, and neither redder nor yellower than is the nature of the colour you wish to represent in shade, proceed thus. Cast a shadow with your finger on the illuminated portion, and if the accidental shadow that you have made is like the natural shadow cast by your finger on your work, well and good; and by putting your finger nearer or farther off, you can make darker or lighter shadows, which you must compare with your own.”

The complete Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci are freely available through the Project Gutenberg website.  Downloadable in a number of formats all under 1.5MB