The Art of Being Successful
Dream Big

I have written about Vincent van Gogh many times over the years. He wanted to be successful as a painter. However, he had to wait. In reality, public acclaim didn’t occur until after his death. It is, at one level, a tragedy. For all the effort that he amassed to paint, he continued to paint even though his brother could only sell one of his paintings before van Gogh’s death. Nevertheless, he was driven by his dreams and continued to paint. Today, everyone knows van Gogh as one of the greatest painters of all time.

Vincent van Gogh is a metaphor for all artists. Paint on…in spite of setbacks. Fortunately, most artists get some acclaim before they have entered eternity’s gate. For example, Leonardo da Vinci. Most people think of Leonardo as a great painter, inventor, architect, scientist, and sculptor. However, he didn’t start at the top of the creative Mt. Everest where he is now.

Leonardo was born on April 14 or 15, 1452 in a small town of Vinci, which was near Florence, Italy. The Medici family governed that area, which was the Republic of Florence. His first problem occurred in the very early part of his life...when he was born. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was his name. His problem was in his name. His name merely meant Leonardo, the son of Piero, who lives in Vinci. Essentially, he didn’t have a surname. There is a great deal of discussion about who his mother was. Regardless, his father had several marriages to other women, some of whom died during giving birth to a dozen of Leonardo’s half-siblings.

By the age of 14, his father moved to Florence where Leonardo worked for Verrocchio, a famous Renaissance painter. He became his apprentice a couple years later. Slowly, he advanced as an artist. However, one of his problems was that he had trouble completing his paintings. For example, The Adoration of the Magi was one of his earliest paintings, which he started in 1481.

The Adoration of the Magi

Nevertheless, Leonardo never completed that famous painting. In his defense, he said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” While that statement might be generally true, he was distracted by other endeavors in his development. Leonardo also attempted, in this masterpiece, what was a bit overwhelming when it came to details. This was his sketch of his The Adoration of the Magi. A great deal of various subject matters were contained in the painting, which is on an eight foot square canvas. Within the painting, there are sixty-six people including himself at the extreme right, an old ruined building with some workmen, several horses, and several men fighting on horseback. If that wasn’t enough, there are two palm trees and a large tree, which are in the center of the picture. One can see that he attempted the seemingly impossible task of creating a masterpiece but also never finishing.

Leonardo’s sketch

Another excellent example of Leonardo’s drive for details was The Last Supper. He started that painting in 1495. However, it took until 1498 to complete. Even before starting to paint it, he drew many sketches. This is one of the earlier ones.

An early sketch

The diagram below wasn’t done by Leonardo, but it is an example of how he composed this masterpiece.

The painting’s diagram

One can now see the painting come into shape.

One of the final sketches

Leonardo’s The Last Supper

Leonardo’s favorite painting, Mona Lisa, took about sixteen years to complete from 1503 to 1519. In reality, it too was actually never completed. Additionally, Leonardo loved that painting so much that he kept it with him until just prior to his death.

Mona Lisa

This essay has two foci. The first is purely about Leonardo.

Leonardo’s self-portrait

Additionally, it is about all of us. I can’t paint at all. However, I can learn from Leonardo’s drive in life. I too dream dreams. What is critical for all of us is to dream big. However, we need to plan, execute, and dream again. Without dreaming, nothing of value will occur in my life nor in yours. Nonetheless, dreaming, which is backup with planning and execution, is the means by which we paint our dreams.

This is a five part mini-series on Leonardo.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5