Free Art For All - The Golden Ratio with Renaissance Artist Leonardo

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The Golden Ratio starring Renaissance Artist Leonardo DiVinci

Leonardo DiVinci surrounded himself with brilliant people.  He used his God given talents to enhance his friends talents.  During the 15th century many mathematicians were inventing mathematical equations explaining things that happened in nature: the center of a sunflower, a conch shell, the top of a cactus, pinecone, snail.  Mathematicians and DiVinci noticed that these patterns, which occur naturally, were pleasing to the eye (Aesthetically Pleasing) and something that the human brain is innately drawn to.  Leonardo’s friend, Luca Pacioli (1445-1517) wrote a book called Divine Proportions.  DiVinci illustrated this book which talked about the “golden ratio’s” appearance in the human body and also in architecture.  The Golden Ratio is the ratio of a line segment cut into two pieces of different lengths such that the ratio of the whole segment to that of the longer segment is equal to the ratio of the longer segment to the shorter segment.  This lesson will break this idea down in terms we can use with our art.  There will be no math required to understand this. But if you are a math person you might find the mathematics behind it enlightening.


  1. Strathmore sketchbook
  2. Pentel mechanical pencil
  3. Kneaded eraser
  4. Black Uniball pen
  5. Sakura Jelly Roll pens in 7 different colors
  6. Graph paper 4 squares per inch.  I printed mine from
  7. Arches watercolor paper
  8. Daniel Smith Watercolors
  9. Bullseye Glass
  10. Frozen by Disney


  1. Mathematician, Fibonocci also created a sequence of numbers that is used in art.  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, …… these can be found by adding 1+1=2 (that is the first 3    numbers)next take the sum 2 and add the next number 2+3=5 and keep going as long as you want.  
  2. Next we used the graph paper to put these numbers out in a geometric pattern.  We are now making square boxes.
  3. You get the elliptical shape by connecting the upper left of the box to the lower right in the first square you drew.  This is not a straight line but a gently curved line.
  4. The next box has a point starting at your last dot and on the opposite corner of the square.
  5. This shape, which I called a coil, helps keep your eye traveling along that invisible line.  The result will be “aesthetically pleasing” to your eyes, subconsciously drawing you into the painting.  The center of the coil will have the most intricate of details thus becoming the focal point of your picture.  As the coil gets bigger the details will be less.
  6. We end the instruction with placing a simple drawing on paper following the path of the “coil”.

No one is saying that this is the only way to make a piece of art that will be valuable and pleasing to the majority of people.  This is only a tool to help you figure out why you like a picture or what you need to do to make it work better for you.  I critique a number of paintings I have done and use the Golden Ratio to analzye why it has not captivated its audience.  If you look at some of the most famous works of art you will see this tool is used by the masters.  DiVinci’s Mona Lisa has a number of “coils” within the main coil.  He is directing your attention exactly where he wants you to look first.  In Van Gogh’s starry night you can see how he used that “coil” to direct his placement of the air movement and stars.  Some artists do not need to use the coil.  Their work is natural and it just happens.  But most artists are not genius’ and will need to rely on all of their tools.  These art lessons are made to give you tools to use in your art world.  I leave it up to you to figure out if you need to use them or not.