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Your Voice Matters

By Maryam Iqbal

All Images Illustrated by Maryam Iqbal

Sometimes it can be hard to speak up. Especially if you’re shy. Words have a tendency to get stuck in the back of your throat. Sentences are difficult to share with others. A speech? Near impossible to voice in public or to a group of people. So, imagine an entire world of speech exists - just not the type of speech that is immediately envisioned. One where colors, figures, and contrast replace a dreary landscape of black-and-white letters. A speech represented by an entire canvas of possibilities where a single glimpse can show someone your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Yes, that is the world of visual arts. 

I stumbled upon this world as an awkward, quiet kid several years ago. In middle school, I was an extremely shy student. I could not speak for longer than a minute in front of people when I met them for the first time and the idea of public speaking frightened me. But, then I took my first Honors Studio Art class. 

Walking into a room playing soft Jazz music, I was astonished by the student artwork displayed on the walls. None of the pieces resembled each other. A bright sunflower field painting hung near the entrance (besides a tall door), a chiaroscuro (bold black-and-white contrast) sketch of skiers framed an older blackboard at the back, and several other pieces decorated the walls of the dimly lit classroom. Throughout middle school, that art classroom was a peaceful haven. I would visit that classroom early in the mornings or after my classes end to serenely paint, sculpt, and draw in the back.

Slowly, as I improved my art skills, I inadvertently began to improve my speech skills. From my first rough drawing of a horrifyingly (Frankenstein-style) proportioned skier to my last piece, a painting of an ocean, I discovered a new voice I could express. In all my classes, I began adding original artwork to many of the essays or assignments I submitted. And, the words that I found I couldn’t express initially were the ones that were exhibited clearly in that artwork. Often, I would include illustrations to flyers or posters I would present in extracurriculars (Math Olympiad, History Club, etc.) as well. Soon, I realized that artistic communication is a form of communication that can subtly dominate an entire text or conversation.

Ever heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

Well, a picture is worth so much more. A picture is a visual image capturing a moment in time. The emotions, opinions, and language in that moment is a mere fraction of the words that are aptly described in that picture.

Hence, the next time you have a public speaking opportunity (a presentation, project pitch, etc.), consider the colors, figures, and contrast missing from the stark black-and-white text in your speech. No, not missing but patiently awaiting. Now, this world of visual arts can be part of the very speech you use to captivate your audience and nail that pitch!

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