Think Big, But Start Small

paint brush

My youngest son, Jesse, then eleven or so, was elated when we bought him an inexpensive paint set and an eight-by-ten mounted canvas. He couldn’t wait to get started on a project that would hold a place of preeminence on our living room wall.


We had often watched Bob Ross, an artist on PBS, who painted land and seascapes from start to finish, all within half-hour weekly segments, and made the endeavor look like a piece of cake. Everything looked simple. I’m sure that other viewers, like us, said to themselves, “I could do that!”

I asked Jesse, “So, what would you like to paint for your first project?”


His reply? “I think I’ll start with something simple, like painting the Mona Lisa.”

What could I say? If Bob Ross could paint a beautiful vista in less than thirty minutes, who was I to say that Jesse couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa, a rather blah looking woman, if you ask me, over the course of a few days, a week, a month, or however long it took?

I said, “Have at it,” and left the artist to himself.  




 ritz-crackers-originalA few days later, Jesse was ready for the unveiling of his masterpiece.

Instead of the Mona Lisa, which he deemed just a tad too complicated, he had decided he’d use a box of Ritz Crackers as his model, and painted it instead.

Yeah, Ritz Crackers. Sorry, Mona.

It was rudimentary at best, but totally recognizable as a Ritz Cracker box. Sorta.

We can all laugh at the story. It is kind of funny how the vision devolved from the lofty, Louvre-worthy Mona Lisa to a lowly box of Ritz Crackers.  But in reality, how many of us are guilty of rushing things? Things for which we might have a pound of talent, but not an ounce of training or preparation. Things that, if we’d just waited, studied, and truly gotten a grasp on, would have blossomed into something beautiful and extraordinary.

Whether your art is painting, drawing, sculpting, singing, dancing, or writing, you need to educate yourself in the craft. Study from the greats. See what made them successful. Model yourselves after them. See what the current trends are for bringing your masterpiece into the public eye.

Is the Mona Lisa beyond your abilities? Draw the Ritz Cracker box instead. Paint the Coca-Cola logo, or sketch Captain Crunch. Write a short story or a poem about the place you lived as a child. Paint the living room walls, then one bedroom at a time. After that, paint the eaves, fascia boards, and shutters of your house.

Start anywhere. But START. Think big, but start small. Bite off small, manageable tasks. Master those, then go on to bigger, better, badder things.

Make your world come alive with your art. Even if you never make a red cent with it.



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