This video of a father surprising his 9-year-old daughter with a portrait of her as the Mona Lisa will surely paint a smile on your face, but it’s what the portrait symbolizes that might just make you draw tears.
Art has been a part of Laurence Cheatham’s life since he was 3 years old, when his mother sat him down on her lap and taught him how to draw shapes. He is a New York City-based artist and although it may look like it, he has never had formal art training. For him, painting and drawing is therapeutic release from the grips of reality.
“Creating art for me is almost like running away without leaving home,” Cheatham said. “It’s very therapeutic.”
Cheatham instilled that love of art in his 9-year-old daughter as well. One day she approached him about wanting to draw the Mona Lisa, but expressed fear that it would be too challenging for her.
It was then he decided that he wanted to teach his daughter an important life lesson in the best way he knew how – through his paintbrush.
Unbeknownst to his daughter, Cheatham began working on a portrait of the Mona Lisa with his daughter as the subject. He not only wanted to gift his daughter with a portrait, but also wanted to give her an important life lesson.
“I wanted to show her that with time, patience and practice that she can do anything she sets her mind to,” Cheatham said. “I wanted to tell her when I finished, ‘If daddy can do it then you can too, because you’re even greater than me.’”
Cheatham worked on the portrait for more than 400 hours over the course of three months. He painted it at night after he worked a full-time security job, and had to cover it up and hide it in a closet to keep it a secret from his daughter.
After months of hard work, the portrait was ready to be revealed. Cheatham described his daughter’s reaction with one word.
“Priceless,” he said. “Her reaction meant everything to me. To spend so much time on something for someone you love and get such a genuine reaction. It was exactly what I was looking for. Indescribable.”
Cheatham says her sincere surprise was amazing, but there was another reason her reaction was so special to him as a father.
“She got the message I was trying to send her in that moment,” Cheatham said.
For his daughter’s future both in art and in life, Cheatham hopes this portrait lesson will stay with her.
“I tell her if you’re passionate about something and it keeps you awake at night that you should always pursue it,” Cheatham said. “Be diligent, hardworking and never lose sight of why you started.”
Cheatham might want to clear some wall space, we have a feeling there may be another beautiful Mona Lisa drawing next to his very soon.