I began a new painting today. The images inspiring this painting have been floating in my head for a couple of weeks, since I made a trip out to Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula. Standing on the shore facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I became entranced by the seafoam rushing forward, swirling in overlapping patterns then sweeping away and I knew I had to explore these amazing abstract forms in paint. 

I pulled out a new canvas from my stash, played around with cropping some of the photos I took, then, settling on one photo which had a particularly interesting composition, I started painting. The photo got me started with an underlying compositional concept but a painting needs to be a painting, not a copy of a photo. A painting needs to be well constructed as well as gestural and fluid so I worked quickly, establishing large shapes of light and dark then asking my brush to provide hints of form as I scrubbed it back and forth. I was pleased by how much I got done in just a couple of hours as I hurriedly washed my brushes before running out to yoga class.

Light, dark, color shift, brush direction, it is an intuitive process based on practice. I thought of my students and the angst new painters have when beginning a painting - that gut-wrenching feeling of having no idea of how or where to start or what to do next. As a student, I was so overwhelmed with fear that I was often incapacitated! (I was convinced my professors were deriving some kind of enjoyment from the torture I was in!) Now, as a teacher, it's important to remember that nausea-inducing terror and empathize with my students! 




Get Synesthetic!

Put on a disk of Miles Davis or Weather Report, sit on the floor with a large sketchbook & markers and start drawing! 

Immerse yourself in the abstract sounds of jazz. Feel the ups, downs and circular motions of the music. Notice the traveling quality of the beat. What color is the trumpet sound? Is the bass cool or warm? Is there a vertical or horizontal feeling to the sounds? Diagonal? Embrace the challenge of representing a temporal experience on a sheet of paper. Allow yourself to move with the music, simply respond, there is no right or wrong way to do this. 

Drawing to music can break up patterns of thought - what you think drawing or painting is all about. Its an opportunity to respond directly to experience - aural experience. Let's face it, most of us visual artists are busy responding visually to visual experiences, either by representing what we are looking at or creating something from the imagination. The synesthetic experience of


A couple of artists who worked to music:

Georgia O'Keeffe 

Wassily Kandinsky