Winning with Words Since 1995

My heart sank as I sat in my 11th grade art class and listened to my teacher explain that, today, our class assignment was to enter a poster contest. Most of the other kids in class were excited at the thought of a contest with a cash prize. 

 

But they were naturally talented artists—I was not. 

Creative, Yes. Artist, no.

I constantly struggled with getting my drawings to come alive on the page. They were flat, one dimensional, always a little bit “off.” 

 

My teacher tried to be nice about my efforts, but his encouragement always turned into an off-handed insult. Like the time he tried to brag on the little detail of hair I’d added under a cowboy’s hat. Only it wasn’t hair. It was my woeful attempt at shading. 

 

All this flashed through my mind as he told more about the contest:

 

It was sponsored by the TN Wildlife Federation, and the goal was to promote animal habitat preservation. 

 

There were only two rules: 

 

1. The words "Wildlife Habitat Preservation" had to be on the poster.

 

2. The artwork had to align with that theme. 

After he’d finished giving us that little bit of instruction, the talented artists in class began drawing the most amazing wildlife scenes you can imagine—from red foxes running through forests, to green tree frogs leaping off jungle foliage.

 

I, on the other hand, walked around the room "looking for inspiration," aka having an internal melt down.

 

I wanted to be a contender, but I felt like a kindergartener trying to outdo Picasso. ​

 

How could I possibly draw anything to compete with a frog that looks like it's jumping right off the poster board?  

 

The Revelation

 

Then it hit me. I didn't have to beat anyone at drawing. I was terrible at that. But this contest was about more than pretty pictures. There were words involved here. Plus, the goal was to promote a cause. 

I could work with that.

So, I stopped moping and started brainstorming. There had to be a way to pair the words "wildlife habitat preservation" with my pitiful art skills and still pack a punch. 

 

Here's what I came up with:

This is Wildlife Habitat

Without Preservation

That day, a flat, black rectangle took down 3-D-like, full-color images of green tree frogs and red foxes. 

 

And the worst artist in class won the art competition.

 

Because, lucky for me, the real artists didn't understand this: We were on a mission to move people to action—NOT to wow them with our artistic ability.

 

And I'm on that same mission today. Only this time I get to help YOU win.