Painting Music


Jungle Rhythms, 6 x 6″ monoprint with ink and pastel

“Listening to Mozart when painting can make you believe in God.”

– J.M. Brodrick

I can’t paint without music playing in the background. But I’m very particular about what music it is. The music definitely informs my painting and if the wrong tunes are playing, the painting is easily derailed.

Without question, my favorite music to listen to while painting is by the artist known as Moby. Interestingly enough, my wife, who is also an artist who paints to music, can’t stand to listen to Moby, not even one song, not even a single chorus. Oh well… clearly it’s all personal taste.

I find that some music is too slow and meditative and doesn’t energize me – I like to develop a slight sense of frenzy when I work. Other music, such as some jazz,  can go too far in the opposite direction and interfere with the flow of my painting (a recent experience with Charlie Parker comes to mind). There’s a sweet spot that settles me into the right groove to paint by. Music I love at other times just doesn’t work while I’m painting.

I suspect there’s a lot of you painters out there who rely on music to get your artistic juices flowing. I’ll bet there are even some out there who might be embarrassed to admit which music serves this purpose for you. Or maybe it depends on what type of painting you are working on. In any case, I’d be interested to hear what you like – maybe I can find some new inspiration to paint by!

14 responses to “Painting Music

  1. I *love* Moby! I have never thought about working with his music playing. I tend to go for Windham Hills artists, soft jazz, guitar, piano, Enya, Kenny G. It has to be unobtrusive. And when the CD ends, I may not notice the silence for along time…..

  2. I have to go with Susan on Moby, Bob! in fact, all so called “new age” music that is supposed to make you feel chilled and relaxed, such as Enya, actually drives me crazy!!

    Kenny G can almost bring me to anger…ah well, back to funk rock for me!

  3. Kev

    With some trepidation, since I know your musical pedigree, I must respectfully question lumping Moby in with Enya or Kenny G. I don’t get that connection. But I will check out Kip Winger. Always looking for new inspiration.


    An interesting trifecta of artists, covering quite a wide range.


    Oops – well, yes, I did leave that part out. An honor to have someone I’ve quoted visit my blog!

  4. I love Moby! However, I only have two. “Play” is the one I just absolutely adore.

    Wasn’t too thrilled with his “18.”

    This album by Tom Waits:

    . . . is just superb and I love to paint to it. Go figure. Some of the songs are heartbreakingly sad, some are funny, some make you want to dance around. I move through the moods of it as I paint and just smile to myself. My all time favorite painting music.

    Also like to paint to classical, blues, and good jazz.

  5. You’re quite right, Bob, musically Moby doesn’t really fall into the same category as Enya, just as she isn’t really musically related to Kenny G, but they have one thing in common….they’re usually all on the continous tape in health spas where people put stones on your back and tell you you’ll feel better! 🙂

    Concerning Kip Winger, his last three solo albums have been a revelation, but he labours against the prejudice that he was the leader of a photogenic hair-metal band of the 80’s, but he’s a very considered and proficient, atmospheric songwriter and accomplished musician.

    I can however listen to Clannad, who feature Enya’s sister, Maire Brennan.

  6. Although i like to have music going on while I am painting, I have none on most of the time… the reason is that I forget to put some on, too impatient I am to start when I feel like painting. But I certainly don’t need music when I paint.. I think even my ears are involved in the process of painting as I don’t even notice them as such…
    But I think that if I would take the time to chose some music to paint, i would rather put some classical music… the reason being that I don’t like so much to have words interfering with me painting…

  7. I have to listen to music when I paint, otherwise something is missing.

    I like Moby, but, I haven’t listened to him in a while. I used to listen to Gorillaz, but now it’s mostly Beck.

  8. Miki

    I have the same issue with vocals – a lot of the time it feels like the lyrics are interfering, maybe similar to Leslie wanting “unobtrusive” music playing.


    Thanks – your comment just cost me $12.99 on itunes…

  9. My Art Playlist consists of the following:

    Dustin O’Halloran – Opus 28
    Marsen Jules – Eillet En Delta
    Tortoise – Ten-Day Interval
    Ulrich Schnauss – Knuddelmaus
    AIR – Alone In Kyoto
    AIR – La Femme d’ Argent
    Brian Eno – Mu Ambient 1 – Music For Airports
    Eluvium – We Say Goodbye To Ourselves
    Fennesz – Perfum For Winter

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