The Society of Figurative Arts uses the word Disegno to refer to both Designing and Drawing much as the Renaissance Italians did. They recognized Drawing as classical design, a position we share.

The system of Disegno used by Leonardo and discovered in the writings of Vitruvius 80-70 BC (The first Roman Architect) lead to Leonardo’s famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man.

Unlike their modern-day counterparts, Roman Architects were also scientists, technicians, engineers, and mathematicians as well as being artists and craftsmen. The word architect comes from the Greek words ‘Master,’ and ‘Builder’ Vitruvius was certainly himself a Universal Man.

We know Vitruvius cobbled together his doctrine from surviving historical records, most notably Greek. He sights in his writings the great thinkers that came before him.

Much history was lost with the burning of the Library of Alexandria in 48 BC by Julius Caesar, but we know these concepts of pre-date the Greeks the Egyptians and probably the Mesopotamians.

Let is suffice to say, that man has had a concept of essential symmetry for quite a while. The Vitruvian man is a symbol of this symmetry and by extension, the universe as a whole.

There is an underlying geometry of universal symmetry that appears in disconnected cultures and the varied forms of nature. An unexplainable system of order that has come to be known as the golden ratio, golden mean, golden section, divine proportion, golden proportion, golden number, golden cut, et.al.

Regardless of what one calls it, it appears conclusively throughout our universe.

Disegno relies heavily on the golden proportion. The success of one’s design is dependent on placement and the relationship of elements.

Placement is the essential aspect of ‘Disegno,’ and the one draughtsmen give little or no thought.

The design needs a blueprint or floor plan, and the draughtsman arranges according to that plan, i.e., creates a functional order or hierarchy.

Understanding that design and composition are two words that strike fear in the hearts of most artists, we use the analogy of designing a living space. It starts by establishing a figure-ground relationship. i.e., you have space and something that goes in that space. Being an artist is requires organizing that space. What one puts in and where they put it is the first order of business. What to leave out is equally, if not more important.

The more successful spaces revolve around the golden proportion and a series of root rectangles.

There are several excellent books on the subject. Jay Hambidges, Elements of Dynamic Symmetry, The Power of Limits by Gyorgy Doczi, and The Painters Secret Geometry by Bouleau are the classics.

We present this material to give you an overview of the rudimentaryy elements of the painter’s craft. Much like music, paintings are composed. Master painters throughout the centuries have used compositional devices in their works.

These devices have been in use for centuries creating affinities between artists of different periods. Either the section or some other design element underlies the works of Rubens, Delacroix, and Cezanne. It is in evidence in the works of all the great masters.

Rather these elements were employed every time or intuitively felt is subject to debate. Regardless, the armature of these design systems appears in all great works.

Divina proportione (Divine proportion), later also called De divina proportione (The divine proportion) is a book on mathematics written by Luca Pacioli and illustrated by Leonardo. composed around 1498 in Milan and first printed in 1509.

Its subject was mathematical proportions (the title refers to the golden ratio and their applications to geometry, visual art through  perspective, and architecture.

You will be happy to know that the images below have nothing to do with your homework assignments, but they are part of Leonardos contribution to Luca’s book.


You are partially right, the ancient Greeks designed much around the Golden Section and Root Rectangles.

Greek Temples, vases, and the proportions of their figures are great examples of sacred design systems. Hambidge’s book on the subject is recommended reading.

The Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians, who designed the great pyramids and much else using these systems.

Proceeding to matters at hand before everyone gets brain freeze.

Our mentor Leonardo used these design systems to develop the disegno of the human form. He also used the same systems to design the letters of the alphabet which we way use to start art journey into Divina Proportione.

EXERCISE I. – Horizontal and Vertical Lines

EXERCISE II. – Diagonal Lines

EXERCISE III. – Curved Lines

EXERCISE VI. – Combination

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