How are art and music related? As a former music major who has always wanted to be an artist, this question resonates with me on a very deep level. What is it about both of those creative endeavors that attracts me and makes me want to share that feeling with others?
Whether it's Beethoven, Faure, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, the Rolling Stones or B.B. King, something happens viscerally in my soul that I can’t describe in words when I listen to music played with passion and from the heart.
When I see a beautiful sunset, the Blue Ridge mountains appearing as I drive over the crest of a hill on the interstate on my way home from a trip, or the reflection of a brilliant sunrise on the misty water of the lake, it takes my breath away. Literally, I involuntarily suck in a breath at the first image. I've never understood how people can sit inside at a restaurant with their backs to the window when there is a brilliant sunset outside! I have always wanted to find ways to express that beauty.
My attempts over the years have included singing and playing guitar as an angst-filled teenager (who hasn’t been there?), singing in many choral groups, majoring in voice in college, and singing in a folk-rock band. In more recent years, I slowly moved from music into art, making pottery for many years before finding my passion as a painter. I have been pondering the connection between the emotional feelings I have for music and art and how those feelings affect the way I express both.
In the art class I'm taking, I have noticed that the instructor has been using musical metaphors to describe painting effects and techniques. As I was reading over my notes from the last two classes, I noticed many closely-related terms that we use in both music and art:
movement and vibrancy within a painting,
painting with your own voice,
making a painting sing with small touches of color,
adding notes of color,
creating a composition,
brushes dancing around a canvas,
rhythm and balance.
In addition to using these verbal associations, he often makes musical noises- “blip, bloop, boom, ding” to emphasize the touch and feel of mark making or adding those notes of color in refining a painting. I found this idea amusing and so compelling that I am starting to think that way as I paint.
Most artists I know use music as a background to set the mood in their studio. On just about any artist's forum, you can find people listing their studio playlists. I do the same thing. Usually I listen to classical music or jazz when I’m beginning a painting to help me quietly think about where I want to go with this blank canvas sitting in front of me. I make my thumbnails and use my viewfinder to create a composition. But often once I start, the music I play begins to match the mood of my painting, the colors I choose and the marks I make. Right now as I write this, I am playing my YoYo Ma playlist on Alexa. It has just the right combination of energy, peacefulness, playfulness and focus.
I feel so fortunate to have had the gift of being able to practice and share both of my passions- art and music. I love hearing the common language that expresses how we experience the world with all of our senses. I am grateful for all of the artists and musicians who share this passion with the rest of us. Here is my latest painting, still in progress on my easel (it needs some blips, bloops and perhaps a ding!), that I made while feeling contemplative and listening to Yo Yo Ma. I was remembering the morning at the lake when I walked out just before dawn and saw this view. It was magical and painting it while listening to beautiful contemplative music brought back the magic.
Please let me know how you combine music and art to feed your senses. You can comment in the space below, or you can send me a private message in the chat box below on the right. Thanks for coming with me on this wonderful ride.