My singing teacher once asked me to imagine painting a picture with my voice while singing. From that moment, I started to imagine applying different colours of paint to the walls of her studio with each note that I sang. With each breath I would apply the colour with long legato strokes or short staccato strokes of my “air” brush. It was a beautiful exercise – one that awakened my imagination and invited all my senses to join in!
This exercise inspired me to step into another dimension while singing. I imagined dipping the brush into the paint with each inhalation and stretching it towards the imaginary canvas on the exhalation as I released the words and tones into the air. I could smell and taste the paint fumes. I allowed my painting to be very large, filling the room from floor to ceiling. This imagery helped me in two ways. It allowed me to let go of mechanically “trying” to apply vocal techniques, while at the same time, it gave me much more freedom to playfully apply the techniques in a relaxed, meditative state as a painter!
Since discovering that exercise, I love to think of my voice as my painter’s palette. My palette has a wide range of colours for me to work with. Dark colours and bright colours, soft colours and intense colours – the whole spectrum of colours – and I can even mix them to create new ones! Such is the richness of the human voice. I can depict a bright rainbow, a warm glowing sunset, a dark mysterious night, or a harsh winter storm. I can use different sizes and shapes of brushes to apply and shape the colours the way I like. This is my art of painting with my voice.
In the same way, when I speak I can use my voice to paint pictures or to illustrate moods, emotions or tell stories that I want to share with my listener or my audience. I will use rich hypnotic tones to depict the Brazilian carnival and soft pastel colours to illustrate the seaside in Greece. Whatever my story, I can adapt and design it to my liking and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I can vary my tone of voice (colour), pacing, volume, or use silence or stress to draw the listener’s attention to different aspects of my story. I can make it like a scary ride or a wonderful adventure for my listener according to the metaphors that I paint with my voice.
Imagine that you can paint with your voice. How will you use this skill to influence your audience or listener? What stories will you tell? What metaphors will you introduce? What emotions will you evoke in your audience? What if instead of just having a conversation with someone, you could paint pictures with your voice? What picture would you paint for your partner, your friend, your colleague, your boss? How could this metaphor of painting inspire the way you use your voice to communicate?
If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh