Color the Emotion

Pick a few colors and create without stiffness.

Painting with Music and About Music

This post is about art, music, and spirituality and enabled by Arts Promotion Centre Finland. This is the eighth blog post of the project, see the first one herethe second one herethe third one herethe fourth one herethe fifth one here, the sixth one here, and the seventh one here!

Water Music - Vesimusiikkia, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Water Music – Vesimusiikkia, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

Lately, I have made two small pieces that go with the biggest paintings of the current series. So the one above has similar colors to the big blue painting in the photo below.

Big abstract floral oil paintings by Paivi Eerola.

And the other big painting on the right has a fairly similar color scheme to the second small one below.

Vivaldi's Crop - Vivaldin viljaa, an oil painting by Paivi Eerola.
Vivaldi’s Crop – Vivaldin viljaa, 30 x 50 cm, oil on canvas

These two small paintings are inspired by 17th- and 18th-century Baroque music. However, despite their theme and titles, I did not listen to Händel or Vivaldi while painting them! Namely, this fall, I have wanted not only to raise the bar in art-making but also to widen my taste for music.

So I have moved from melodic pop and baroque songs to electronic soundscapes and contemporary classical music. What used to be annoying and disturbing isn’t so anymore. I can paint more freely when a catchy melody isn’t telling me what to do.

Painting with Music or about Music

Rather than an instant energy booster, music can be seen as a concept or a memory that can be painted or drawn. I never thought before that a song could be a subject for my painting even if I don’t listen to it. Different music that plays in the background can start an inner journey to express the song. So you can paint with music A and express music B.

Expressing Händel's Water Music. Painting with music.

After finishing Water Music, I did play some Händel to check that the painting is in line with it.

Mixing Music with Other Inspiration Sources

Creating becomes exciting when inspiration is collected from several sources. One of my orchids surprised me with a small flower which affected the painting too.

Nature and art. By Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

I often check that my art and plants go well together. I have taken the idea from Paul Cezanne, who said: “When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.”

Oil painting in progress. Painting with music and about music.

In the other small painting, Vivaldi’s violins are mixed with the recent incident of seeing a fox carrying a hare in his mouth.

A detail of an oil painting. Mixing inspiration from various sources.

I feel that listening to music that I call “asymmetric” has developed my thinking. Instead of going around and getting back to the melody, music can travel long distances without repetition and create a sense of a vast space. For example, a Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho‘s orchestra piece Orion opened that way.

Jazz for the Control Freak!

Next, my plan is to learn to tolerate jazz! My husband likes it, but it’s always been too rambling for me. “Music for those who like to be idle and lazy,” I have said sarcastically when he’s been listening to it.

But now I think differently. I don’t have to be the music. I can just let the music be what it was born to be. And similarly, the music lets me be. It’s like my best paintings: they let me be who I am, and I let them grow in the direction they want.

A detail of an oil painting. Expressing music by painting.

So, I can just be and let others be and still create a connection that takes us to the next level. I think that’s what it means to “let go” when we talk about intuition and creativity.

Two floral abstract paintings by Paivi Eerola of Peony and Parakeet.

My series will have seven paintings, and the last one is now on my easel. I will share more pics about it in later posts. It’s been quite a lot of painting and I have started to miss my colored pencils!

Painting in progess. Painting with music.

Tell me, do you paint and draw with the music? What kind of music do you listen to when creating?

4 thoughts on “Painting with Music and About Music

  1. Thanks Päivi, for another fascinating post!
    Music has always been a part of my life (my Dad came from a musical family) especially the classics. I played the piano for a while when young, but refused to learn music theory. Of course, now I wish I had! My failure as a pianist was because of my impatience with the boring practice of chords and scales and also, the prescribed learning pieces. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin–the amazing music I heard on the radio–that is what I was yearning to play! Perhaps it would be wonderful to still be able to play a piano, but what I derive from listening to classical somehow must find a way into my artwork? I usually have such music during all my waking hours in the background. However, I’m very drawn to some kinds of jazz and the romantic ‘pop’ ballads of the 1950’s and 60’s and lots of movie scores. They don’t actually take second place to the classics, but are of a different nature and depend on mood.
    Now, to get into artistic expression through music is such an exciting idea! I LOVE it that an artist can somehow combine art and music, having what we hear coming through design and colour in a painting, not abstractly, but in a very real sense– you mention “a concept or memory”. (We know of Kandinsky’s remarkable artistic friendship with the composer Arnold Schoenberg and how music is everywhere in Kandinsky’s work!) It’s something I’ve been wanting to try, but I seem to let other projects get in the way or think that, as with the piano, I’ll fail?
    Usually Bach comes first when it comes to the classics, but I have heard some Ralph Vaughan Williams pieces recently (Christmas music) and find them absolutely mesmerizing. Also, I have learned that more recent compositions–outside the classical period–have their own irrepressible beauty. “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt, comes to mind.
    Well, seems I could go on all day about something that is so close to my heart–such an absorbing subject and one that I’d love to see accentuated more often.

    1. Hi Louisa, I am so glad you enjoyed the post and your comments were most interesting. I have also played piano in my childhood but quit the lessons because we only had a small electric harmony and it was difficult to practice with it, then play the piano in the classroom. But I insisted to continue the theory lessons which I enjoyed a lot. Then I played violin for a few years.

      I think you should allow music to come in your art, here are some thoughts on that:
      a) Maybe it’s already there? Athmosphere, the style of the lines, the rhythm of the elements … Maybe you have already made music-inspired pieces!
      b) Not one idea: Don’t push too hard with one idea, for example one music piece, but incorporate more ideas and let them get mixed. We often think too literally and loose the art in the process.

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