number one

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Artistic Endeavors, Running a Business50 Comments

On my @marianparsonsart Instagram, I shared my very first oil painting along with this caption…

Number one.

This was my first attempt at oil painting just over two years ago. You can see my tentative use of the paint. The barely-there stippled cloud declares my uncertainty. The mishandling of the colors and weak composition show my lack of knowledge and skill. ⠀

But, you can’t get to painting number 500 or 1000 or 10,000 without having a number one. ⠀

Don’t compare your number one to someone else’s number 500 or 10,000. Let your number one be your number one…in all of its embarrassing artistic immaturity. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

You have to start somewhere and this is where I started. ⠀⠀

As a comparison, this is my most recent landscape painting, almost two years and around 400 paintings, a dozen online art courses, and 100 art books later…

I felt like I had more to say on this subject than what I shared in that instagram post.

The number one of anything is hard.  You have to be prepared for the newness of it.  You have to ready yourself to be bad, to be an amateur.  You have to settle into the idea that getting good at something takes time.  I would love to see a gallery or a museum displays of number ones…the first story Jane Austen wrote, Shakespeare’s first play (maybe it’s buried on Oak Island), Edison’s first invention, Monet’s first painting, Emily Dickenson’s first poem, Michael Phelps’s first lap in the pool.  If we could see a collection of firsts, I think it would make all of those endeavors feel more attainable, possible for us.

What we know of all of those people is their best.  We often become aware of people and their works once they are at their best.  Once they’ve played for the half-filled crowds at small venues and recorded their first single in their basement.  Once they have taken thousands of photographs or written thousands of pages.  Once they have studied and toiled and second-guessed themselves and have had to push through critique.  We rarely get the see the number one…probably because it’s been burned or it’s in a landfill somewhere or lost to time.

But, as I said, you can’t get to number 500 or 10,000 without a number one.  Except in the very rarest of cases, you can’t be great without being bad or mediocre first.

August 16 will be the ten year anniversary of my first blog post.  It’s so short, I was able to take a screenshot of it and save you the click.  If you want to click over as see the actual post, you can find it HERE.


I reread through my comments on that post and one is by the girls from Shanty to Chic and another is by Jennifer of the Magic Brush.  It made me smile because I’ve had the privilege of growing with a community of so many talented women who have done amazing things.

The post you’re reading now is number 3,039.

I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words and have styled, shot, and edited thousands of pictures.  I’ve painted thousands of pieces of furniture and spent hundreds of days sewing, upholstering, painting, and creating.  I’ve shared thousands of posts on social media and pinned thousands of pictures on Pinterest.

Over the years, I’ve gained a net following of 8 subscribers per post.

Even overnight successes didn’t happen overnight.

Every single thing you do had a number one.  Your first step.  Your first house.  The first thing you sewed.  The first piece of art.  Opening day of a store.  The first time putting on running shoes.  The first dollar earned.  The first painting.  The first blog post.

You can’t have a number 3,039 without a number one.

So, what do you want to be good at?  What do you want to try?  Who do you want to be?  What are you curious about?

You just have to start with a number one…

Speaking of paintings, my most recent paintings are for sale!  I’ll share more detail about them in a follow-up post, but I wanted to let you know.  You can see the landscapes HERE, the seascapes HERE, and the portrait HERE.

number one

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50 Comments on “number one”

  1. This made me cry-this made me happy, this made me felt encouraged. So many things that I had wanted to do but had given up on because I was afraid of my number one. Thank you for being more than the cheerleader and mentor, thank you for being the encourager. We all need an encourager in our lives and today-you have been that for me. It’s time to dust off my soon-to-be number one and to get started!! There IS beauty in our beginnings!

  2. Disappointing to say the least re the paintings. I opened your email the minute I received it and there were only about 5 for sale, the rest were all sold.

    1. Sorry about that. I only list a few at a time (seven in this case), because they are originals. I can only paint so many at one time! The others that are sold were a part of an earlier sale.

  3. So profound and timely for me. I was beginning to believe that I have no talent at all. After trying my hand several times with several different mediums I had become convinced that I’m not creative in any way
    Now I believe that I need to work up to a number 10 and then a number 100 before losing hope. Thank you for the encouragement!!

  4. I am going to save this blog post and read it to my 11 year old granddaughter, she has such a hard time with all her number ones. I continue to try and help her understand that if she is always good at number one then she has nothing to strive for, nothing to work towards, nothing to get better at…..maybe this blog post will be her “click”

  5. Marion,
    Will the portrait of the brunette lady be put up for sale at some point? I am crazy about it and was wondering if I might be able to try to bid on it.

  6. Love, love, love this post. Thank you for sharing. I will never forget my first oil painting. It was SO bad that it should be burned (but it’s probably still in my parent’s attic!). But my second one was already so much better, and by then, I had been bitten by the painting bug. Still, there are literally stacks and stacks of my terrible paintings in the attic! That really helped me to think about my blog/new business in the same light–for some reason, I am so impatient with that for it to be really good and successful right away! But artistic/creative venture like this takes so much time, patience, and commitment to make it work. Thanks for that reminder and for sharing so openly about your journey.

  7. Thank you. This was just what I needed to read today. (And, as an aside, this is my first comment on a blog post).

  8. This is such a profound post! I saved it and plan to read it over and over again…every time I get frustrated and/or discouraged because I just can’t get to where I want to be. Well, not today, anyway.

    Thank you again for your generous heart in all things. You gift us all in so many ways!

  9. I feel every “number one” should be considered brave, beautiful, and full of hope. Not “bad” or “amateur”. Don’t prepare yourself for the let down of a number one but prepare yourself for the happiness felt with the completion of the “number one”. It will be wonderful on all levels. I promise.

      1. Yep I have it framed. Figured Marian will want it one day. I actually have quite a collection of Miss Mustardseed first. May be my retirement plan :). Proud Mama

  10. I wish I could mishandle color and have a weak composition just as you did. I’d be thoroughly contented with a number one! We shouldn’t fear failure, should we? It’s not trying at all that’s worse. Thank you for a lovely post n

  11. What a beautiful, inspirational post. Thank you for reminding us that you have to start somewhere.

  12. Now I feel much better about my Number One Quilt. Lines not straight, points don’t meet, etc. But you should see Number 20. Much better. Thank you, Marian.

    1. Yes! I stopped quilting after my number one! Oh my word, it was so bubbled that it looked like a yurt for a cat! Darn if I didn’t iron the heck out of it and hang it on my wall anyway…well for a couple of days. I had to take it down because I couldn’t look at it with a straight face. I’m sure if I stuck with it, #20 would’ve been much better.

  13. You really are a wonderful person. Your parents and husband must be very proud of you. Our sermon Sunday was about “gifts”. In addition to your obvious talent as an artist, you are clearly gifted with the ability to inspire others. You are a teacher.

    1. Well said and AMEN ! Thank you Marian for always sharing your insight and thoughts on life and art and inspiring your followers along the way. Miss Mustard Seed is my number ONE blog !

  14. I love this. So very true – it takes time and practice and perseverance – your visual of your “number one” and your most recent painting tells that story. And I LOVE the idea of a “firsts” museum! As always, thanks for the inspiration.

  15. I have the problem that I always want to start at 100!
    I’m so often too hard on myself & sometimes too impatient with my number 1 or 2 attempts – I have to remind myself it’s a process & your post does that to perfection.

    I only started blogging in April 2017 when we started building our new ‘old’ farmhouse – I am not a very prolific blogger, this year I’ve only done 2 posts! But I’m happy enough with my first post at least & subsequent posts as well, although I don’t know how you manage to be such a prolific blogger – I find my life on the farm & running my web/graphics business gets in the way of inspiration, or time for me to do the things in the house for me that are blog worthy!

    Plus now we have a new puppy – he is the ultimate black hole where time seems to get absorbed & before you know it the day is over & no new blog post has managed to find it’s way onto the page! LOL

    1. Julie, reading your comment told me that you have loads of content! Just in these few sentences, I’m curious about your puppy, the home you built, and life on the farm. Don’t edit your story too heavily and think that people won’t want to know about the everyday things that happen in your home. 🙂

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Marian.

        I guess I should write more about everyday experiences & see how things go. I do have a few posts about the journey building our farmhouse & a few about farm life, but most are related to decor & vintage.

        I have been inspired to write a post about the love of real books after reading one of your recent posts, so that will be on it’s way soon! 🙂

  16. Congratulations on ten years. I started following you soon after that and have enjoyed it all. This is another thoughtful post. Thank you.

    1. Yep! You have been with me a long time. In fact, you bought…I think it was my second dining room set!

  17. Marian, I LOVE the painting of the barn with furrows in front of it. Very professional

    You have a wonderful talent for encouraging makers and would-be makers, including me. Thank you for putting that talent to good use.

    Congrats on your upcoming 10th anniversary!

  18. All I could hear in my head what you said about your very first oil painting was “if painting this was wrong, I don’t wanna be right!” A play on words from an old love song soul style.

    Marian – your “not so x and x” first painting? I don’t think you truly understand how talented you are – I cannot even doodle properly – now I can play breautiful piano with no lessons, write music, sing, etc – but to be able to conjour up forever lasting beautiful artwork? No Way – absolutely never ever in my wildest dreams could I EVER paint something so beautiful. Heck, seriously I can’t even paint a wall or piece of furniture nicely. I suck, haha.

    One day I am going to buy one of your originals – love to see some more nautical, boats, etc – esp this time of year.

    Stunning work – you are so humble and sweet. Keep going – your stuff is amazing!

    Have a wonderful July 4th week!

    1. Ha, I would challenge you, if you ever have the inclination, to try! Drawing and painting really is a learned skill. 🙂 It sounds like you have some great creative outlets, though.

      I have been doing some seascapes, but I’d like to do more boats, etc.

  19. Wow! Thanks for inspiring and uplifting us once more. Your words are incredibly helpful, and your art is always inspiring. Keep it up another 10 plus.

  20. Thank you for your brave and inspiring post. Upon further reflection, Number One is our starting point on a new journey. There can be no beginning without a Number One. I ran across this poem the other day i hope that it touches your heart as it has mine.

    “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver

    Living life with no regrets!

    1. What a beautiful quote! I just recently discovered Mary Oliver and her work and I just love it! Thanks for sharing

  21. Now that’s an idea! The FIRSTS museum!
    I am thinking as I put up my kids at work, to put first and latest pieces side by side so we can all marvel at the progress 😁

  22. Marian I read this yesterday and have been letting it sink in. I have been so frustrated at my efforts to sew, paint, craft, write – because I expected it to be “right” or “good enough” the first time. After pondering this post, today I hit the ground running and have already painted and sewn (at 1:00 p.m. I also tried what you do – played music while I worked. What a difference that makes. Thanks for this encouragement. I’m going to send this link to friends for their encouragement.

  23. Thinking and dreaming about doing something doesn’t get it done. After reading this, I’m inspired to start WORKING on some of my dreams.

  24. I am so happy I read this. I’ve been so hard on myself… I’m just beginning to realize that God placed the creativity in me and expressing what’s in me blesses Him! Thank you for your inspiration!

  25. Bit late to the party on this one, but thank you a great post. I might even print this one out for my kids. It takes so much patience and resilience and self drive to get to that 400. Congrats to you. A great lesson, especially for those of us that think it’s “too late”. If you’re still alive, it’s never too late, right?

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