online sketchbook & creative dumping ground

How to Eat an Elephant…


illustration for 'How do you eat an elephant...? One bite at a time'

Do you know that saying that goes “How do you eat an elephant…? One bite at a time.” ?

You may have heard this before… and if you haven’t heard it before, you can probably get the point… but just in case you don’t… this is a saying that people will use when they – or someone they know – is faced with a gigantic task to accomplish. .. when the job seems so big, that it’s almost impossible to imagine ever being able to complete it.

And so the point is that – like attempting to eat an entire elephant – the best way to complete such a monumental effort, is to take it in small “bite-sized” pieces.  Rather than looking at the whole – which could be overwhelming – you can look at one chunk at a time. 

A little while ago, my friend Kevin asked me to illustrate these words of wisdom for him, so that he could hang the picture by his computer, to give him perspective whenever a job started to feel too big to handle.



38 responses

  1. Carol

    Is this image free to post on Facebook?
    Thank you.

    December 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm

  2. Carol

    I posted it to my Facebook page. Thank you for giving me permission! Have Happy New Year!

    December 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm

  3. Hi Carol – no problem. Thanks for reaching out and asking for permission.

    As I mentioned in my email to you, so long as my work is not being sold or being used as content in any sort of commerical/money-making venture, I only ask that folks:
    1) contact me and obtain my permission to display my work
    2) let me know where the work will be displayed
    3) give me clear credit as the creator and owner of the content
    4) provide a link back to

    Enjoy – and Happy New Year!

    January 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    • I’d like to use your graphic (how to eat an elephant) in a presentation. My talk includes the topic of incremental change and how an organization needs to be OK with steady, slow progress towards the goal. Would that be OK?

      June 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

  4. Fleur

    Hi Sean – I love your cartoon! I work as a HR person inside a large government (not for profit) agency. I’m leading a change project for about 200 people who really need alot of support through a tough time – I’m doing a round of talks over the next few weeks and would like a little levity – and creativity – to open. Am very happy to acknowledge you as you’ve requested above. May I use your cartoon please?

    February 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    • Hi Fleur – thanks for the kind words.
      I think that should be fine. If my cartoon can help you to pull some people through a hard time, I’d be glad.
      If you end up using the cartoon online, please provide a link back to my site (ideally, the cartoon itself will be linked back to my site, so if anyone clicks on it, they come here) and if it’s possible, I’d love to see where/how you incorporate my cartoon. If it’s a presentation, and you can share it with me… or if it’s online and you can give me a link?
      Good luck with your project!

      February 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

  5. Greg

    Hi Sean. I am an L&D professional working within a company. Would I please be able to use your image in a presentation for our team leader development programme to illustrate the principles of continuous improvement?

    March 2, 2012 at 5:30 am

    • Hi Greg – thanks for your interest in my work, and for contacting me asking for permission to use it.
      Yes – I’m fine with you using my How to Eat an Elephant cartoon in your internal presentation. Please just do not modify the image, and provide a brief attribution including my website address
      If the presentation should happen to be made available online, please provide a link to the original posting of the image on my site.
      And please ensure that nobody reuses the image for any other purpose without securing my permission.
      Thanks – and good luck with your presentation!

      March 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

  6. annettewelsford

    Hi Sean. Brilliant cartoon. Well done. I’ve read all your replies to others, so thought I’d contact you for your decision. I have a website membership program for trade contractors – teaching them how to give better customer service. We have a lot of stuff for them to do, and your cartoon perfectly illustrates what we’re trying to say to them – don’t be overwhelmed with it all, take it one step at a time. Are you happy for me to use your cartoon if I attribute it to you and link back to your site?

    Kindest regards and admiration for your clever work


    May 3, 2012 at 1:45 am

    • Hi Annette – thanks for the kind words, and for your interest.
      Yes, you may use my “How to Eat an Elephant” cartoon graphic on your website as an illustration of your site’s message, under the simple terms that:
      * you do not alter the image
      * you clearly attribute ownership of the image to me
      * you provide a link back to my site – preferably the image itself is linked to my site
      * if possible, please provide me with the URL of your site… I’m always curious to see any project incorporating my work :)

      Good luck with your site!

      May 3, 2012 at 10:08 am

  7. annettewelsford

    Hi Sean, not sure if the comment I just posted made it to you or not, so I’m trying again. I love your elephant graphic – it’s just gorgeous.. I’ve read your other comments and replies and would like to gain your permission also. I’m building a website for our new business which teaches tradies (trade contractors – plumbers, builders, electricians, etc) to give better customer service. I’d love to incorporate this graphic as we give them so much training and action lists that they may feel overwhelmed. Of course I’ll attribute the design and permission to you and incorporate a link to your site. What do you think?

    Best regards, Annette

    May 3, 2012 at 2:32 am

  8. Don McCauley

    Sean: Saw your design when I searched the expression “how to eat an elephant”. Would like to use it on an internal website inside a US corporation. Will not alter the image, will attribute to you and will provide the link to your site. Our site is restricted internal. Let me know. Cheers, Don

    August 27, 2012 at 4:43 am

    • Hi Don – sorry for the delayed reply, but yes you may use my How to Eat an Elephant illustration for your site.
      If possible, I’d love to see the context in which it’s being used… if you can’t provide me access directly to the page, maybe you could send me a screenshot?

      September 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm

  9. Sean – We have an opinion piece in our magazine and we wondered if we could use the image with the story. Is there any way we could use it with the story? We are happy to attribute it to you and link back to you in our publication and on our website. Please let me know ASAP.
    Tahnks – Jan

    September 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

    • Hi Jan – can you tell me more about your magazine and website? I’d also be interested in knowing the subject of the opinion piece to which you want to attach the illustration. Please let me know.

      September 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  10. Sean,
    May I have permission to post your “eat an elephant” on Facebook? Thanks, Jensen

    December 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    • Hi Jensen – thanks for your interest in my work!
      I prefer that you share it as a link on your FaceBook page… just copy the address of this page and paste it into your FaceBook status field along with any comment you want to add, and that will be fine with me!

      December 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm

  11. sandra thomas

    Can i use this in my uni assignment please, ill copy the link to the webpage and reference it. as well

    May 2, 2013 at 8:38 pm

  12. Sean, I’d like to use your graphic (how to eat an elephant) in a presentation. My talk includes a section on incremental change and how an organization needs to be OK with slow progress towards a goal. This slidedeck will likely be posted on the web after the conference and I will include a link to your website. Would that be OK?

    Not sure if my other reply was lost. Sorry if this is a duplicate.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

  13. I’m developing a class in Beginning Genealogy. This is an IRL (in real life) class. I would like to use your illustration to help introduce my section on the genealogy research process. Appropriate attribution will be made on the slides – which will not be made public.

    September 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    • Hi Sarah – thanks for your interest in my work.
      I’d love it if you could tell me a little more about your class. Are you affiliated with a school?
      Let me know – thanks!

      September 26, 2013 at 1:01 pm

  14. Graeme Towell

    Hi Sean
    I would like to use your “How to eat an elephant” as part of a presentation for an internal project review meeting with my team. The presentation will not be posted on-line and is for internal use only. I will ensure that you are credited and your website is indicated. Are you happy to grant me permission? Thanks. Graeme

    November 5, 2013 at 5:50 am

  15. Randy Branson

    Sean, I am the Healthcare Coalition Coordinator for my state. I’m giving a briefing to the coalitions around the state to discuss what appears to be an insurmountable project. I’d like your permission to use your illustration as my wrap up slide.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

  16. Hi Sean, may I use your elephant picture in a blog post I’m writing? I am using that proverb to talk about my journey as a doctoral student, and your drawing is perfect. I would link to your site when crediting the image. Thanks!

    January 29, 2014 at 1:11 am

    • Hi Jen – thanks for your interest in my artwork, and thanks for reaching out to request permission.
      Yes, I am fine with you using my How to Eat an Elephant illustration in your blog post with link and attribution.
      I prefer that you link to the image on my site, rather than saving it and uploading to your site.
      Best of luck on your doctorate!

      January 29, 2014 at 11:20 am

  17. Thanks again, Sean. Here is a link to my post. I did embed the link to the picture on your site and then gave you credit and linked to your main site below the picture.


    February 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

  18. Gosia

    Hi Sean, Great website! I am a grad student (Uni of San Fran) and I am working with a non-profit org on service learning school project. Can I pls use your pic “how do you eat an elephant?” in a preso please? It will be fully attributed & include a link to your website.

    April 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    • Hi Gosia – thanks for your interest in my work, and thanks for reaching out to request permission to use it.
      Your use of my How Do You Eat an Elephant illustration in your presentation, with attribution and link to my site, sounds fine. If your presentation is made available online, please send me a link – I enjoy seeing where my artwork is used.
      Good luck with your presentation and your non-profit project!

      April 23, 2014 at 11:45 am

      • Gosia

        Thank you! Much appreciated!

        April 23, 2014 at 5:36 pm

  19. OSSAlanR

    I’d like to use this on my blog for an article I just wrote. I linked it back to this page. Please let me know if I need to remove it, or what the payment terms are. It’s an awesome illustration!

    July 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm

  20. Pingback: Eating the Security Compliance Elephant once and for all

  21. Pingback: The Best Way to Eat An Elephant – BURNER SPEED SYSTEMS LLC

  22. Stephen

    I love your image! I texted it as motivation to a girl I supervise. She’s leaving for a new job soon, would you mind if I printed and framed it for her new office?

    August 11, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    • Hi – thanks for the kind words, and thanks for asking for permission to use my drawing!
      I’m happy to give you permission to print and frame a copy for your coworker. I hope she enjoys it!

      August 12, 2017 at 5:58 pm

  23. Chris Leese

    Hi Sean – This is an amazing drawing! I am giving a presentation at a conference on learning (I am not selling anything at the conference just speaking about learning and development). May I have permission to use your one elephant at a time image? I will of course attribute the drawing to you citing the illustration is by you and providing your website,

    October 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    • Hi, Chris – thanks for the kind words and for your interest in my artwork. I’m happy to grant permission for you to use my How to Eat an Elephant drawing in your presentation.
      Could you tell me a little more about the conference? I’ve worked in eLearning for most of my professional career, so I’m curious.

      October 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      • Chris Leese

        Hi Sean – I’m speaking at one of the breakout sessions at the 2017 Dev Learn conference. My presentation is about microlearning.

        October 22, 2017 at 1:11 am

      • Oh, very cool, Chris… and I totally get how “One bite at a time” works with the subject of microlearning… on multiple levels if you think about it.
        Good luck with your presentation, and have fun in Vegas!

        October 22, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s