This will definitely be an opinionated post. Music, like art, is such a diverse selection when it comes to choice. There is no doubt that visual artists have an affinity for beautiful music, as well. It is a question that I get asked quite often. Inspiration comes from many sources, and music is one source.
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I am not ranking these in order of favorites. Full disclosure: this list is going to hint at my age. I'm not afraid of guesses.
Music choice in the studio definitely varies from artist to artist. Many like classical or non-vocal sounds. Folk, blues, country, and modern jazz are also popular. From what I can gather, it is more about the tempo and the “feel” of the music that an artist seeks out than a genre. A lot of artists say they like listening to music in languages they don’t speak, as in perhaps Andrea Bocelli — so that the songs become more sound than words. Like other things, it's all relative.
Here's my list
1. Gabriel's Oboe
I started with what might be #1 because when I do listen to this version of Gabriel's Oboe from the movie "The Mission" by composer, Ennio Morricone, it sends chills up my body. I would have to be painting something smooth and visually dynamic. I can't say that I finished a particular work while listening to this music. but I titled a painting "The Mission", based on the score by Morricone. In my mind, outer space evokes a mission so this image resulted in the artwork below.
2. You Can Go Your Own Way
By Fleetwood Mac
I have no idea but I love the lyrics, the beat, and maybe the heart of doing things my way when I am painting. Fleetwood Mac is, indeed, a part of my formative years, so there's that.
3. Acoustic Soul. Album by India.Arie
This is the one playlist of mine that is a full album. I discovered this music artist when I was regularly joining Dr. Bertice Berry on her early morning Periscope sessions. (This video live-streaming platform formally closed its doors on March 31, 2021). Dr. Berry frequently had music playing in the background during her video segments. I discovered India.Arie, a dynamic vocalist, and songwriter. Inspirational in her content it inspires me to be my own self, to not render to another person's view of the world. Her songs, Beautiful and Break the Shell are wonderful lyrics that commit to being yourself and not the people who put ideas into your head, ie., the parents, the spouse, the "best" friend, the teacher, and others who you listened to as the word of God. Just be yourself.
4. Everything by Michael Bublé
The soft, easy listening style of Michael Bublé sets a tone of a laid-back, devil-may-care, "life is good" atmosphere. A great way to paint.
5. Shower the People by James Taylor
Speaking of "laid-back", what better choice than James Taylor . Tried and true singer, a songwriter who cuts through generations who still love his stuff. This singer/songwriter, however, is a part of my youth, flower power, mini skirts, Vietnam war protests, baby boomer (oops, that's under duress by other generations...butI won't go there). James Taylor is an icon. Pick a song from among so many: How Sweet it Is (to be loved by you), Shower the People, Fire and Rain, and so many more. Painting to his great collection is a joy.
6. The Four Seasons by Vivaldi
I love classical music but do not often paint listening to classical music. I don't quite know why that is? Classical form is so varied with tempo, subdued, then vibrant. I think this might be why. I would have a hard time changing my brushstroke to match the sound. The selection of Four Seasons does just that but this image comes close to the image that I might have painted.
This is a tutorial (yes, artists do tutorials, too) from Watercolor for Absolute Beginner by Mark & Mary Willenbrinck. Chapter "Negative Painting" pgs. 84 - 87.
7. Water Under Bridges by Gregory Porter
Nothing like a little Jazz, blues, or gospel to smooth the weary soul. Again, this vocalist was introduced to me at our Periscope video sessions with Dr. Bertice Berry. Wonderful voice and pure soothing sound.
8. Seasons of Love
from the Broadway show Rent
Broadway shows and movies have some great songs. When you love'em, you can usually sing'em. We all have memorable songs that we can sing...so why not paint and sing. Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, West Side Story, Wicked, Hamilton, and Frozen 🙉, and many more.
9. Hello by Adele
I pay attention to current songs and singers, but not feverishly as when I was younger. Our daughter's playlist has Taylor Swift and others that are contemporary. If I catch someone that appeals to my ear you may find me adding that to my studio music. At Christmas you can count on me adding Pentatonix. Their harmonies and interpretation of popular songs are amazing. Yes, "Hallelujah" is a favorite along with watching the original video. Amazing group sound.
10. Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson, Neil Young, Jason Mraz...
Oh. oh. I didn't realize how many songs/singers I listen to in my art studio. Truth be told, I don't always listen to music when I paint. I find myself concentrating on what I am doing. The flick of a paintbrush because I'm singing (and maybe dancing) can be catastrophic if I'm about to add my signature to a finished painting.
I can think of a lot more songs that I can associate with particular paintings. This topic is interesting to me, as I have asked about it in my Meet the Artist series. I went ahead and googled (verb) "Music to Paint By". Whoa. Do the search on YouTube and you will see the results are endless. If you are an artist and have a favorite genre of music to paint by, drop a comment in this post. I would love to hear from you.
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