‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’

This phrase emerged in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. Its introduction is widely attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who published a piece commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising with the title "One look is worth a thousand words", in Printer's Ink, December 1921. [i]

Study this painting for a few moments and reflect on the messages that you hear from considering it.

What do you see here?

While most questions are left for the observer to answer, the picture is telling us a story. 

Each may see a different story while looking at the same image.

Who is the woman?

What do you make of her appearance?

What is her mood?

What is the vehicle behind her?

What is the building in the background?

What do the colors convey to your imagination?

The roof of the bus and the sky seem to blend. Any thought on what the artist is thinking with this?

The woman is facing one-way and the bus another. Is she arriving or leaving? Coming or going?

Al Scott attends New Song Church and this is one of his pieces. I’m sure he had thoughts about the subject matter when he painted this.

By the time we have had some dialogue on this one painting we have easily exchanged a thousand words.

A similar idea was seen very widely in the USA from the early 20th century, in adverts for Doan's Backache Kidney Pills, which included a picture of a man holding his back and the text "Every picture tells a story".[i]

In art, music, spoken and written word the potential exists to have a layered effect on the observer. You can understand new things as you come back and examine it again.

Communication depends on body language, illustrations, tone, color, dynamics, smiley characters and a vast array of conditions to be fully expressed-- and that’s only half of communication! The other half depends on the listener. Some people are easy to communicate with while others leave you scratching your head and wondering what just happened.

Clear communication often requires that the best words, images and emotion be issued with precision and simplicity. If it’s too complex, the message gets lost.