Music and the Visual Arts: Creating to a Different Tune

At this point in my life, I consider myself to have a fairly high level of creative confidence. Even so, I can hear the doubt in my mind. Sometimes, when writing or drawing, there’s a voice that says, “It’s just not good enough.” Drawing and writing are my strengths. They are the areas where my most of my confidence rests. What happens when I sit down to discuss creative subjects that I’m not so comfortable with? Eventually, I may have to outsource, if I get a large enough audience. I may have to call in reinforcements, people who can encourage and talk with confidence about topics that leave me cowering in a corner. In the meantime, we’ll take a more superficial look at these kinds of topics…just enough to get us started.

This week, that topic is music. Music is a fantastic creative outlet that many people engage in. They sing, compose, play instruments, pour their emotions into sounds and words. I do not. I never have. I took about three weeks of flute lessons in elementary school, I dreamed of learning drums, and I’ve got a guitar that sits decoratively in a corner. I take my daughter to violin lessons, and my eyes glaze over as her teacher explains what they’re doing. She talks, and it’s like a foreign language to me. Like, I honestly have no clue what she’s saying.

I am, however, a great appreciator of music. I love to listen to music. It feeds my soul.

With that information divulged, let’s take a look at some ways to add music to your creative brain exercises. Simple, basic ways, that satisfy those of us with little to no musical knowledge. If you find yourself like me, if you’ve never shown an aptitude or interest in engaging in music yourself, there are still ways to weave music into our creative lives.

One of my favorite ways to bring music along on my creative journey is by listening to tunes while I paint. I have never been able to write while listening to music (though I know many people who can). For me, that uses two parts of my brain that fight against each other. Art and music, however, can co-exist peacefully in my mind. Music can inspire my work, make my brush move in ways I hadn’t thought. It can bring out the best in me. I almost never work on art without music. Think about the emotions that music can stir and the effect those emotions can have on a piece of art, or really any creative venture. It’s powerful.

(These pieces were created while making the video you’ll find below).

I created this piece years ago, while listening to ‘Third Eye’ by Florence + The Machine. Much of my other art was influenced by the music I listened to while creating, though less obviously.

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When my daughter was younger, you might have found me dabbling in the instrument bin, pulling out a tambourine or the maracas and playing along to the music. I like to create a rhythm, add a little something to a piece of music, but I don’t create my own. When I was in my twenties, I owned a drum set. I had big dreams of tapping into my hidden musical side, but I was intimidated. I never played them. I lived in an apartment and was afraid of annoying the neighbors. I occasionally tried tapping out a beat on my practice pad, but never got further than that. Still, I don’t discount these little experiments with music as it relates to my overall growth in creative confidence. It’s brain exercise, whether I progressed at it or not.

What about singing? I love to sing, and will belt out a tune at the top of my voice…as long as only my loved ones are listening. I could probably be convinced to sing ‘Walking in Memphis’, the Cher version only, in front of just about anyone, but the truth is…I don’t sing very well. I never learned the technical skill. It’s always been a dream of mine to learn, but I’ll settle for singing poorly, giving my creative brain a workout in the process.

My most recent musical dream is to learn to play the cello. And you know what? I think I just might do it. Tapping into a little music could help my art. It could help my writing. It could help my brain in ways I can’t even comprehend. Pushing myself into new territory is a good thing. Being intimidated shouldn’t stop me. The more creative outlets I try, the more I stretch my creative muscles.

Are you a musical person. or do you struggle with music like I do? If music is a stretch, try these Gently Guided Activities:

Gently Guided Activity #1 Try doing some art while listening to music. If art is a stretch for you, if you haven’t grown your confidence yet, you may find that music loosens you up, tugs on your emotions or lowers your self-consciousness. Try out different types of music. Do you create differently if you’re listening to classical music versus rock or pop? If you are able to write while listening to music, try writing a short story or a poem inspired by your favorite music.

Check out the video below to see our process of creating while listening to music:

Gently Guided Activity #2 Have you ever dreamed of learning an instrument or learning to sing? If so, and you have the means, maybe the time is now. When we’re not confident in our abilities, we put up a lot of mental blocks. Knock them down and give yourself permission to try. Give yourself permission to be terrible at it. Just do it for fun. Give it a try! If lessons are beyond your means (I’m pretty sure they’re beyond mine right now), try getting an inexpensive instrument to start with. Watch YouTube videos to get you going. There’s a lot of internet content that can get you making music without a huge financial investment.

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Gently Guided Activity #3 Maybe you’re not ready to learn an instrument, start singing, or composing your own tunes. If you have kids, you probably have a few noise-makers lying around. Add your own sounds to music that you love. No instruments? No problem. Create your own beat, or mimic the beats of your favorite song by clapping your hands, banging on the kitchen counter or stomping your feet. Dance while you’re cooking. Move your body to the music. Do whatever you can to connect yourself with music. You’ll be using part of your brain that might be a little rusty, and you’ll feel better for it.

If you try any of the activities, let me know in the comments. If you give the art activity a try, feel free to post your results on the Bonnythings Creative Facebook Page!