Vision Thing is a journal I write to share my experience and passion as an artist with my collectors,
galleries, friends and art enthusiasts everywhere. My goal is to offer a "behind the scenes" or
insider's view of what makes an artist tick...this artist at least.
I appreciate you sharing my journey.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Connections: Music & Art

How do you paint sound? How do you "see" music? How do you capture something that takes time, a musical piece, in a single image...or can it even be done? The connections between music and art fascinate me. Music is crucial to my life as an artist; it inspires me, it moves me, it complements every aspect of my creativity. To give you an idea, the position of my stereo and CD collection in my studio is more important than where I paint (of course, where I paint has to have plenty of room to hit those big air guitar windmills).
Luminous Horizon Digital/Aluminum
In this piece I was exploring musical concepts such as rhythm, repetition, linear progression and the waveforms of sound

This is my first "Connections" article on the subject and I would like to explore the language and terminology music and art have in common. Music and art are often called the "sister arts" and there are many ways in which they are inter-related; the commercial aspect of album covers and visual marketing, the imagery music inspires, the "Mtv" phenomenon, the language they share, etc.
"Senses" Features Study Composition
Charcoal on Toned Paper
Why are music and art sometimes called the "sister arts"? To understand why they are so connected I feel it is important to consider where they come from. I believe music and art are tied to our two "primary" senses, hearing and vision. At first these two senses, and the quality of their respective "input" or information do not seem at all related - one sees things - one hears things. Indeed they are separate in that regard, however, the language and vocabulary used to describe things we see and hear are often the same language - "Wow! That color is loud!" or, "I think I'll sing me some Blues"..."Excellent us of tones in that drawing" or, "That painting has a nice sense of rhythm." Some of the most fundamental aspects of music and art use the exact same language: composition, movement, tone, color, harmony, arrangement, passage, rhythm, note, structure, texture, etc.

"Rosetta Signal" Acrylic on Aluminum
(In this piece I was trying to convey the concept of a radio signal  from space
...a "cosmic song" and the key to understanding a galactic civilization).
Many artists, particularly in the modern, abstract realm where concepts such as painting music can be considered, have explored this theme or the idea of painting music. They have used color, composition, arrangement of elements, shapes and forms to attempt to capture the "feeling" music inspires in two dimensions. Kandisnky had a lifelong passion for music and explored the idea of painting music in his "Composition" series. He formed a longstanding friendship with the innovative Viennese composer Arnold Schonberg who had amjor influence on his concepts of composition. In fact it was perhaps his deep interest in music theory and its connection with art that led Kandisnky to a more free expression in his work.

Kandinsky Composition VIII
Oil on Canvas 1923 551/8" x 791/8"
I find it fascinating to translate what seem to be such different experiences or senses in an attempt to unite them in some common expression. This comes out very strong in my aluminum work because the physical grinding process is very rhythmic and feels a great deal like "playing" an instrument. I try to incorporate these concepts into each painting in some way, whether it be through, rhythm, composition, tone, texture, etc. I always try to bring some "music" into my art - my hope is that you can "hear" my paintings.
Swann's Lament Digital
(An homage to Led Zeppelin for a friend)
My goal is to be able to paint the way Pete Townsend plays guitar...I'm working on it!


Next week: On Cognitive Dissonance (maybe...not as hard as it sounds...honest)...stay tuned!


  1. Jeff,

    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel makes these comparisons in his lectures on Aesthetics in 1835 so you are in good company

  2. From Greg Stevens via Facebook:

    Hey Jeff: Your musings on art & music drew me to your tasty blog site. Nice work on the site -- interesting thoughts, too. I tried to comment on your site but something went wrong -- what I said was that Disney devoted many projects to this, which you likely know: Fantasia, but also numerous smaller pieces. Animation it seems to me partners so well with music because both have beginnings and ends and move, throughout. Silly Symphonies, Merrie Melodies -- animation has seemed to ache to join hands with music, all along the way.

  3. AC: I'll check that out...I don't remember that from class!

    Greg: Thanks for the reminder on Disney and Fantasia. Animation is extremely well suited to the topic.