Discuss the significance of drawing as an art medium during the Renaissance.  

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Giorgio Vasari, a famous Renaissance painter and art historian from Florence, considered drawing "the father of all fine art." According to Vasari, drawing was the foundation of an artist's work because it encompassed both design and expression.

Many drawings executed during the Renaissance were preliminary sketches of other types of artistic works such as paintings, sculptures, buildings, mosaics, tapestries, and stained glass. However, artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci helped to transition drawing into an autonomous independent artistic activity.

Renaissance artists usually drew on canvas, tinted paper, linen, and vellum, which is the treated skin of calves, goats, or pigs. To compose, they used styluses, metalpoint, charcoal, chalk, and quill or reed pens with ink.

Some of the Renaissance artists who created famous drawings included Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. For instance, Botticelli drew Abundance or Autumn on pink-tinted paper using pen and ink, brown wash, and black chalk. Leonardo da Vinci used pen and ink to draw Adoration of the Magi. Michelangelo used black chalk to create Ideal Head of a Woman, The Fall of Phaeton, and Portrait of Andrea Quaratesi. Raphael used metalpoint on pink-tinted paper to draw Heads of Virgin and Child.

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Drawing became increasingly realistic during the Renaissance as artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci increasingly turned to the sketch pad to experiment with form and perspective. Both men also dissected and sketched corpses to attain a fuller grasp of human anatomy. Meanwhile, artists such as Botticelli put a great deal of emphasis on a flowing line in their paintings.

Today, we value the beautiful sketches artists like da Vinci produced, but their real value, at least in the eyes of the artists themselves, lay in their ability to use these drawings to learn how to more accurately replicate the natural world.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of this change. Art was becoming more alive and humanistic, moving radically away from the static imagery of earlier iconic painting. If early religious art was considered a form of writing—a way to use a stylized set of images (functioning like an alphabet) to tell a Biblical or theological story—an emphasis on realistic drawing set art in a newly individualistic direction, one that did not change until the embrace of abstraction in the twentieth century.

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The idea of creating drawings on paper at the onset of the Renaissance was strictly a practical matter; as artists such as Da Vinci became increasingly interested in their own creations rather than simply copying finished works, it became necessary to make some changes to the creative process.  The drawings, then became the beginning of a new project, a way to begin planning on paper, through a set of quick sketches that might approximate what a professional writer does when he or she "brainstorms" random ideas and words on paper.  This technique was particularly useful when one aimed to produce a sculpture or painting of a human figure, because these sketches allowed for unrestricted exploration of a human's muscles or skin tones, for example, or the folds of his or her clothing, or the deconstruction of one's facial expressions. 

These quick sketches came to be followed by a more formal series of studies of the subject to be painted or sculptured, and then a set of full-scale drawings, sometimes referred to as cartoons, was produced.  On a more practical note, drawings came to be part of formalized contracts drawn up between an artist and his patron; with a drawing as part of the contract documents, disagreements on the vision of a painting, sculpture or architectural construction, were much less likely to occur. 

Although drawings initially became popular as a practical part of the planning process of an important work, drawings themselves are often now viewed as highly artistic and worthy of our contemplation as much as the finished works might be.  One need only look for a few minutes through the drawings of the notebooks of people like Leonardo Da Vinci to see the genius at work in what were intended to be casual sketches as a prequel to something greater. 

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