Saturday, December 3, 2016

Artists, you do have to market yourself

A lot of artists shy away from marketing, saying their main job is to create, and not get de-focussed by other activities. It would be good for all of us artists to know, that the great Da Vinci had to market his skills too. The faster all artists learn to market themselves, the better off they will be!

While applying for a position with the Duke of Milan, Da Vinci customized his letter to the Duke's requirements. Being an inventor, engineer, architect, and military strategist, he could pitch for these talents to be used for warfare. He did add at the end of the letter that he could paint, too!

A wooden model of the bridge

We know of Da Vinci's phenomenal capabilities as a designer and thinker. Many of his designs are still considered "too modern" for execution! In 1502, Da Vinci proposed the design of a bridge to the Sultan of Constantinople, top span the "Golden Horn" inlet in Istanbul. The bridge if built, at a length of 1201 feet and a width of 79 feet, would have been the longest in the world. But the Sultan balked, thinking such a project would be impossible to execute. 

The completed Da Vinci bridge
The proposed bridge also included a "pressed bow" of 790 feet length, and 141 feet high clearance for ships to pass. Like many of Leonardo's innovations, the original drawing was misplaced, but was found more than 400 years later in 1952. Vebjorn Sand, a Norwegian artist saw the drawing in 1996, and proposed that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration use the drawing. The Oslo Leonardo Bridge Project completed in October 2001, and is a monumental ode to the genius of Da Vinci. 

The phenomenally talented Leonardo da Vinci wrote to the Duke thus after finding out about the palace requirements, and pitching the right skills (the painting skills are mentioned last):

“Having, most illustrious lord, seen and considered the experiments of all those who pose as masters in the art of inventing instruments of war, and finding that their inventions differ in no way from those in common use, I am emboldened, without prejudice to anyone, to solicit an appointment of acquainting your Excellency with certain of my secrets. 

Self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci,
chalk drawing, 1512
1. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable, with which to pursue and defeat the enemy; and others more solid, which resist fire or assault, yet are easily removed and placed in position; and I can also burn and destroy those of the enemy.

2. In case of a siege I can cut off water from the trenches and make pontoons and scaling ladders and other similar contrivances.

3. If by reason of the elevation or the strength of its position a place cannot be bombarded, I can demolish every fortress if its foundations have not been set on stone.

4. I can also make a kind of cannon which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail, and of which the smoke causes great terror to the enemy, so that they suffer heavy loss and confusion.

5. I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages either straight or winding, passing if necessary underneath trenches or a river.

The original letter by Da Vinci,
pitching his skills
6. I can make armoured wagons carrying artillery, which shall break through the most serried ranks of the enemy, and so open a safe passage for his infantry.

7. If occasion should arise, I can construct cannon and mortars and light ordnance in shape both ornamental and useful and different from those in common use.

8. When it is impossible to use cannon I can supply in their stead catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other instruments of admirable efficiency not in general use—I short, as the occasion requires I can supply infinite means of attack and defense.

9. And if the fight should take place upon the sea I can construct many engines most suitable either for attack or defense and ships which can resist the fire of the heaviest cannon, and powders or weapons.

The last supper, Leonardo da Vinci,
Mural painting, 1495-1498

10. In time of peace, I believe that I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone else in the construction of buildings both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another.

 I can further execute sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, also in painting I can do as much as anyone else, whoever he may be.

Moreover, I would undertake the commission of the bronze horse, which shall endue with immortal glory and eternal honour the auspicious memory of your father and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the aforesaid things should seem to anyone impossible or impracticable, I offer myself as ready to make trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility. 

Portrait of a lady, Leonardo da Vinci,
Oil on wood, 1490-1496
Leonardo Da Vinci

The employment did happen, and Da Vinci worked with the Duke for sixteen long years. He completed several important projects for the state, as well as many of his important paintings, including "The last Supper" for the Refectory of the Convent of Santa delle Grazi, Milan, and the luminous La Belle Ferroniere, said to be a portrait of Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ludvico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and Da Vinci's chief patron for all these years.

Well, even for such talents, employment was not certain, and Da Vinci worked pretty hard on the letter, his commissioned works and for state projects of Milan. So artists, you do have to use all your marketing skills!
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