August - Painting Music (Pt Four)

What does sound look like?

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky 1913

Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky 1913

Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky explored the art of painting sound in his book "Concerning the Spiritual in Art".

He believed that colour and tone resonated and vibrated in the soul like chords of a piano.

His music-inspired paintings differ from those of Klee in terms of mark-making.  Where Klee enjoyed expressing the music through a grid structure of colour tone (as I begin to explore in my previous blog post), Kandinsky created shape and line to construct his designs.

Although I'm not a fan of his paintings, I appreciate their construction and artistry. 

As I look at this work, I feel as though I am above the music; I am elevated and the sound explodes from the ground reaching up towards me.  


In the piece of music I've chosen to paint ("Still Waiting" by Tom Chaplin), as well as the lead vocal, I have a violin, piano, guitar, drums and choir to express.

I begin by listening to some violin music by Mendelssohn and "draw" the sound with a marker. I'm thinking about the length of the note, its fullness and pitch and also how the notes move from one to the other.

With some interesting patterns and shapes evolving, I move on to using some acrylic ink with various tools and a fan brush.

I listened to the song and - as artist Paul Klee would say - I took "a line for a walk" through the rhythm of the music.

I repeated this exercise for the other musical elements in the song. As I did so, I noticed the similarity between the marks I was making and those I create in my continuous line doodles. I suddenly realised how lyrical my doodles are. There is a beautiful flow of energy throughout the pieces which is also expressed through music and dance.


Close up section of my line and layering technique with acrylic paint and mediums


At the same time, I've been experimenting with layering acrylics with colour glazes (using liquid or heavy body acrylics with gel medium for a translucent layer).  


It's taken me a good amount of time to make this technique work for me - and I'm still experimenting - but by combining these two concepts of line and translucent layers of colour, I'm beginning to enjoy the results and see what I originally intended when I started this project.


In order to turn these ideas into a complete canvas that tells the emotional story of the music I've chosen, I need to think about colour to convey mood and composition.

I began by 'seeing" the composition of the song; where the emotional high and low notes are in blocks. (I wrote about this process in more detail here). I then used this map as a basis for my painting's composition.

As I worked over a period of several days, adding layers of colour and line, the painting emerged.

Please play the song "Still Waiting" by Tom Chaplin as you explore the painting.