Leonardo Da Vinci said on his deathbed, “I should have painted more.”
Now I find there is no objective evidence for that. And it looks like yet another of my cherished myths must fall. I understood the story to mean that others, much greater than me, took the same side rail into technology and business. Thus providing me a bit of cover for my own folly. Instead, this story was probably fabricated by the author of a well-known book on artists, Giorgio Vasari, written 50 years after Leonardo died. It says more about what Vasari thought Leonardo should have been doing “in the eyes of God.” Oh well.
Whether or not Leonardo had any regrets for not having done more art, I do. I wished I had done more art. I would have also continued to explore and incorporate technology into my art. There are many great examples of artists that did that, Herbert W. Franke, for example. More regrets about not doing that too.
The two pursuits are actually complementary. There is, of course, a technology of art. In painting, there is the chemistry of pigments and mediums. But I also investigated and used the neuroscience of vision and color theory to enhance my paintings. Pursuing the art of technology is a bit more tricky. I did that too. Look at this painting I did of my Yashica-D camera.
But I loved coding. I experienced watching my computer systems work with the same awe I did from doing art. So, what was I going to do? I continued doing technology almost exclusively – for a while.
But my family and friends would not let the matter drop. Nor could I stop looking at the paintings and drawings I had done that were hanging on my walls. And the experiences of awe I got when looking at art never ceased, either. This goes way back to my childhood. I see this clearly now in hindsight. I was awestruck by artwork from a very early age, especially artwork that my older brother, Sterling, created. Since I could see that he had created it, I knew early on that artwork comes from people like me.
This experience of awe from art must be elemental in humans. Evidence has been found for what may be artwork from 40,000 years ago. And its production has continued unabated ever since. To understand this, it is essential to focus on the awe, both the awe of the finished art and the awe at the creation of art. Whatever subject, medium, event, installation, or performance art is “about,” it is also about that awe. That anyone can change a stone to Venus or put a bull on a wall is awesome.
Technology seems to share the effect of causing awe, but it often ends up being transitory. And here is the source of the regret, which Leonardo may or may not have had, but that I have had. New technologies become obsolete. Sometimes, they are born that way. Progress is real, and new technology replaces the old. Art does not progress. The cave paintings are as awesome as always. Cave artists have no regrets.