February - Painting Music (Pt Three)

For this exercise I'm trying something less spontaneous than the previous process of the Abstract Expressionists. I'm turning to the German Expressionists (or Der Blue Reiter group) Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee for a more considered approach.

I'm a planner, so I'm really looking forward to getting started.

As I know the song quite well by now, I'm continuing to paint "Still Waiting" by Tom Chaplin. This is a raw acoustic version. 

To start, I'm taking my inspiration from Paul Klee. He was a violinist and studied painting music from a technical and analytical point of view.

"Reference to a flowering tree" 1925 by paul klee

The painting "Reference to a Flowering Tree" is a wonderful example.

Each colour denotes a note in the music.  The tone of colour (lightness or darkness) follows the softness or (forgive me, I'm not a musician), the loudness of sound. The size of the coloured form would echo the length of the note. 

You can see how the tone (strength of colour) and shapes lead the eye around the canvas. There is rhythm and structure here. 

If you look at the work from a distance, it appears as though the colour is bursting from the canvas!

This is an interesting way to go about it and quite a useful set of principles - if one was painting - as Klee did - a Bach fugue.  Yet, it's more challenging to tackle something more complicated and layered.  

I may not understand the structure of music, or the technicalities of musical harmony, but I do understand pattern. So that is how I'm going to approach it. 

In "Flowering Tree" and all of Klee's music paintings, there is a clear structure. This is where I'll begin with my own piece.


There are a number of questions I'm asking myself as I listen to the music:

What "shape" is the musical composition?

What is the map of intensity of emotion?

Where is the focal point or destination? (The high point in the music)

Where does it end? How does it end?


I found the easiest way to create an image of the song's structure was with collage. I cut out a stack of squares in different coloured paper. As I listened to the song, I grabbed a square that best described each change in the melody.

I ended up with twelve squares.  I pared this down to an even simpler structure. Eight squares was more manageable in terms of creating a composition that makes sense.

I rearranged the squares to make  pleasing composition.

I particularly like where square no;1 meets no;8 as the song feels like a circle to me.

This is a good foundation and starting point.  As the piece develops, each of these squares will be segmented further as I add tonal variations and the layers of the musical composition.

Check back soon for the next blog in this "painting music" series.