Music and Painting, A Harmonious Relationship by: Jean Pederson | February 20, 2015

The environment we experience influences our creative process. When we experience variations in lighting, colors on the walls, different smells, and different types of sounds, they evoke different feelings within us and in turn these sensory experiences invade our creative process. The sensory effects of music affects our painting process; I distinctly see how music plays out in my art and in the art of my students.

 When I need a zap of extra energy in select areas of a painting, I turn on the tunes and see how my brush tangos with my canvas. I have a personalized playlist of fast moving music to jazz me up through an artistic lull—it really helps!
Interestingly enough, many art forms use similar descriptive terms across art disciplines. Music, painting, drama and architecture use terms such as repetition, variety, intensity, rhythm, dialogue, balance, unity and so on. Some people can actually hear color; therefore, they are easily influenced by music.

I spoke to a successful musician about the similarities between music and painting. We had an instant connection because we spoke and understood each other’s creative language. Whether we were discussing music styles or musical genres such as country, opera, rap and heavy metal or visual arts like folk art, Renaissance paintings, installations, and abstract expressionist work, we respected what the other artist was trying to communicate. There is much to gain from learning, understanding and accepting differences across the art forms. (That’s why there’s both chocolate and vanilla, right?) That pretty much sums up those differences.

I encourage you to explore how music affects your painting process. Try creating several different playlists to listen to while you work in your art studio; have each playlist include a different musical genre. As you listen, think about what the music is telling you. Then react to the music in your color choices and mark making. Is the music slow, staccato, loud, aggressive or melodious? Fast tempo will encourage fast mark making, calm music may result in calm color choices. The music will orchestrate your brushes and create artistic sheet music to represent what you felt through that music. You can interpret music through your art.

Just go try it, you get the idea. Watch how the music transforms the marks on your canvas!

Edited by Meghan Norton, online education manager of

Painting by Jean Pederson, Mixed Media Art, Effects of Music on Painting.  

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