“Da Vinci Did It; You Can, Too,” by Stuart Watson

Jun 28th, 2023 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

It’s never too late to be a great Renaissance artist. Yes, the original Renaissance was a long time ago, but it’s making a comeback. Renaissance? So retro. R-squared, baby.

Your instructor, Waldo Leonardo, is a distant relation of Leonardo da Vinci. But hey, who isn’t? Waldo put it on his CV, and who were we to argue? Nobody else had the cojones to claim ancestry with a great artist, even Bob Ross. Besides, it’s cheeky. What Renaissance reference returns calls? In short, there’s no way to validate bullshit. Gotta trust, baby. Anyway, Waldo will guide you through the 10 essential elements of painting your own Renaissance Masterpiece.

The thing to remember about Renaissance art, it’s all about tropes. The more tropes you can include, the better your painting will be. Something for everybody, right?

“What if I don’t have any Renaissance tropes lying around?” you ask.

That’s OK. It’s been a few. Leo will help you make your own, Etsy style. It’s art, right? If you’re not the DIY type but serious about this shit, go to Amazon, search for “tropes” and buy one of the larger multi-packs. You don’t want to run out. OK, here’s the class.

1. Include a really large clamshell. It should contain a nude, virgin preferably, but draped in some sort of drapey thing. The drape should not cover her entirely, revealing at least one boob. This was a common problem back then. Boobs hanging out, and shabby drapes. Drapes back in the Renaissance didn’t have much elastic. OK, they had none. Nor safety pins. In place of a drape, an old sheet or shower curtain will work. Contemporize the scene with a twist-tie. Don’t sweat the deets. If you want to amp it up, include an angel sucking on one of the virgin’s breasts. Make the angel gender neutral.

2. Cherubs. Little gaggles of cherubs, with their swaddling diapers and tiny wings and Junior Archery Sets should be clustered in the corners of your paintings. They’re looking down on the action in the middle, obviously thinking how cool it looks and hoping they don’t die of dysentery before they can zoom the nude in the clamshell. Give one or two of your cherubs a long bugle.

3. Roman centurions with brass breastplates and spears. Don’t forget the helmets that look like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Sure, the uni is all Conquistador Modern and a tad derivative, but … talk about foreshadowing. Way ahead of its time.

4. Add at least one horse, its forelegs up in the air, massive and flexing hip muscles in the foreground, John the Baptist or David or one of those biblical guys hanging on for dear life. A static painting needs action.

5. Choirs of angels, usually at the top, looking down on the scene from a heavenly space that disappears into the frame and suggests an eternity of grace and goodness and chill times at the right hand of god.

6. A few lightning bolts and thunderheads add drama and insinuate judgment and damnation. The bolts should hit the landscape, stretching off from behind the clamshell toward the horizon. Maybe add a very tiny truck stop. Big EAT sign. And remember, it’s always good to have Zeus or that newish God throwing down the fire.

7. If you have enough landscape room, include some cowering peasants, sprinting for cover through the sheaves of wheat that are burning now because the lightning bolts have hit them.

8. You can never lose if you include two large arms, coming in from the right and left side of your painting. They should have their index fingers extended and almost touching, but not quite. You want viewers to see this and think, “Wow, those fingers almost touched; musta been excited to see another finger just like them.”

9. Don’t forget to include the Virgin Mary, or Madonna, as she is also known (like a virgin, only different). You’ll want to position her on a velvet futon. She’ll be naked, of course. Everybody but centurions went around naked in those days. Make sure to include a big-horned bull and a pig and some chickens on the futon, keeping the virgin company (BTW, historical etymological note: virgin is the root word for vegan).

10. Above and behind the clamshell maiden, it never hurts to tuck in a mini-vignette of some historical event, like the burning of Rome (don’t forget Nero and his fiddle) or the rape of the Sabine women or the three Calvary dudes on crosses. Variety is key. Just remember: A good Renaissance painting was almost as good as Netflix, but way more collectible.


Stuart Watson wrote for newspapers in Anchorage, Seattle, and Portland. His writing is in  yolk.literary, Barzakh, Two Hawks Quarterly, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Bloom, Fewer than 500, Mystery Tribune, Bending Genres (Best Microfictions nominee), 433, Flash Boulevard, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Sledgehammer Lit, Five South, Shotgun Honey, The Writing Disorder, Grey Sparrow Journal, Reckon Review, Muleskinner Journal, Wrong Turn Lit, and Pulp Modern Flash, among others. He lives in Oregon, with his wife and their amazing dog.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.