New Faculty Book: Leonardo's Art Workshop

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2019 marks the 500-year anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Industrial Design Senior Critic Amy Leidtke has joined the global celebration of his contributions to art and science with the publication of her new book, Leonardo's Art Workshop: Invent, Create, and Make STEAM Projects Like a Genius  (2019 Rockport Publishers), a non-fiction book for children ages 9 - 14 (grades 5 - 8) and educators who teach grades 5 - 8.

Leonardo’s Art Workshop leads children on an interactive adventure through key art, design, science, and math concepts by following the multidisciplinary approach of the Renaissance period polymath Leonardo da Vinci: experimenting, creating projects, and exploring how art intersects with science and nature. The book addresses color, shadow and light, lines and patterns, forms and structures, and optics and special effects. Photos of Leonardo’s own notebooks, paintings, and drawings provide visual inspiration. Insights from other great artists and scientists — such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sandro Botticelli, Paul Klee, and Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci — are woven into the lessons throughout.

In speaking about the project intent, Leidtke states, “In creating this book I had four main goals. First, I wanted to make a book that would speak to curious kids who love to learn by doing and making, so I sought to infuse it with hands-on, kinesthetic experiences. Second, I strove to provide a book that would offer depth in content, rich with inspiration of Leonardo’s life and work, plus opportunities to think like an artist, designer, engineer, and scientist — a book that a kid could come back to again and again. Third, I planned to write a book that would inspire kids to think in a multidisciplinary way — like Leonardo — to ask questions, experiment, observe nature, not be afraid of making mistakes, record ideas, and create. Fourth, I aimed to develop a book that middle school educators could use as a STEAM education curriculum resource, one full of fun STEAMlabs that connect to national visual arts standards and next generation science standards.”

When discussing what informed Leonardo's Art Workshop Leidtke says, "Inspiration for this book came from life experiences: attending art school as a child; training as an industrial designer and artist; developing design curriculum and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the Industrial Design Department at RISD; designing learning and play environments for children and families; providing professional development for K- 12 educators; and being a parent. Too, I am very grateful for the mentorship of my editor, Judith Cressy. This being my first published book, I had many lessons to learn.”

When asked if there is an example of how Leonardo's Art Workshop connects to teaching Industrial Design at RISD, Leidtke replies, "As former Industrial Design students can attest, I have a passion for drawing and teaching drawing as a form of thinking. For industrial designers, the ability to visualize ideas begins with learning how to represent volume in perspective (mathematically). One of the same perspective drawing lessons I teach students at RISD is included in the book. It is in a section about perspective drawing. I used Adobe Illustrator to illustrate the sequential steps involved in drawing a cube in one-point perspective. The illustration and step-by-step directions are so clear and useful that I plan to use it when teaching perspective drawing at RISD."

In addition to being an author and faculty member at RISD, Leidtke is a multidisciplinary industrial designer, education consultant, and public speaker with expertise in design for children and families, design education, and design strategy. She is a lifelong learner and educator who loves to figure out the way things work.

Instagram and Twitter: @amyleidtke
Website: amyleidtke.com