The Sound (and Look) of Music

Last week, I talked about the power of “doodling” or art-making to focus your full attention on a sensation or experience.

This is one of the main reasons I make art. Not to hang something on the wall, but to enhance my experience of life. Sketches while traveling or walking the woods, watercolor washes capturing the colors of the morning sky or a delicious flavor.

One of my favorite ways to use art-making this way is to draw or paint to music.

Perhaps you recall these two “doodles” from last week’s post.

A doodle expressing the sound of a classical guitar piece.
Classical guitar music.
A doodle expressing the sounds I was hearing in a coffee shop.
Coffee shop sounds.

Both were done to music, but neither is intended as a “representation” of the music. It’s more like that “dancing when no one is watching” sort of drawing. Simply letting my pen and markers move to the music, for the pure enjoyment of immersing myself in the rhythm, the sounds of the instruments, the flow of the melody.

Pen and marker is convenient when I’m relaxing on the couch in the evening, but to really play with music and art, I want a brush in my hands!

Abstract art to music. Working on top of a previous creative seed to the music of Alan Hovhaness (Symphony for Metal Orchestra).
Working on top of a previous creative seed to the music of Alan Hovhaness (Symphony for Metal Orchestra).

A brush can flow, like music. A brush can also be staccato, flicking drops of paint, or make slashing, crashing movements or even drum on the paper.

Watercolor, acrylic and ink also flow, like music. And like different instruments or voice parts, the fluid colors mingle and blend.

This is not about making a finished piece of art, but it is a great way for me to get my analytical side out of the way and allow surprises and “happy accidents”.  I learn a lot about my materials this way.

Copper metallic paint with opaque turquoise swirls.
Detail of the left page. Here, I combined metallic washes with some opaque color, not something I’ve used much in my work. But I might start after seeing this!

There’s really no need for me to say more except: go try it!

Grab a brush and some watercolors or acrylics, put down some plastic so you can spatter and splash if the music moves you, put on a favorite piece of music (or album) and let the music guide you.

Don’t think, just let the brush dance!