Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Music To Paint By

And here we go again with one of my never-popular List-o-fives.

This is one that I was thinking about when doing my most recent painting.  Yet again I had promised myself that this time I would definately do the painting in oils, and then did it in acrylics - mainly because the joy of acrylics is that you don't have to wait two weeks for everything to dry, or else end up with a muddy mess.

As such my impatience won again and acrylics were the weapon of choice.  Don't get me wrong - acrylics produce a nice effect, but I do think that there is a certain something about the texture and look of oil paints that has never been matched by any other medium (not even Mystic Meg)

But a major factor in painting is chosing the right music as a backdrop to help you achieve the right mood: ie slightly unaware of the passing of time around you.  Sometimes this can be dependent on what you are trying to achieve - for instance if you are painting a storm scene it might not be a good idea to listen to Barry Manilow and equally if you are painting a nice summers day then Megadeath may be a no-no.  Recently I did a painting of Jimi Hendrix, for which I mostly listened to the man himself for inspiration - but this is not always a good idea - so here is my list of any-occasion music to paint by in receding order of preference.

#1: The Blues
You can never really go wrong listening to the blues - it's the music that I always come back to and can always be relied on.  Recently I had a whole spate of listening to blues whilst painting and can thoroughly recommend:
BB King - my compilation of BB is never far away
Muddy Waters - recently discovered MW and not entirely sure how I survived this far in life without knowing about him
Eric Clapton - his "recorded as live" "From The Cradle" cd is a masterpiece
Robert Cray - i need more RC in my collection

#2: Swing
Big band - it never quite goes away, does it?  Sunday mornings, listening to Sinatra...well, ok so he was a less than perfect individual, but if you stopped listening to every singer who had a few personality issues....well, you'd have no one left, would you?

#3: World music
This tends to mean "anything sung in a different language".  For a while back in the 80s and 90s it looked like WM was going to be the next big thing, but it has remained something of a sideline.  However, that is not to say that it is not enjoyable - you can hear sounds and invention that you just don't hear in the pop charts and the world of Simon Cowell and his ilk.  Some top listens:
Ladysmith Black Mambazo - who first came to fame through their involvement in Paul Simon's classic "Graceland" album
Staff Benda Bilili - congolese street musicians
Youssou N''Dour
And, oddly, Bollywood soundtracks - my "Best of Bollywood" often gets an airing when I'm painting.  There's just something about Bhangra...

And of course, the Wedding Present's infamous Ukranian Folk Songs album - which only I seem to realise is a work of genius.

#4: Easy Listening
Some years ago when our local newspaper wrote a review of Phil Collins calling his music "easy listening" he wrote an angry letter back about all the hard work and effort that went into creating songs that people enjoyed.  Personally I don't see the problem with being referred to as easy listening or middle of the road - you have to have a middle so you can know where the edges are, and besides - as a listener i don't want my ears to be phonically challenged all the time.  I want something i can sing along to.  So Phil, I'm sorry if you're reading this and object to being referred to as Easy Listening - but your CD and many others of its ilk are favourites when i want some background music that will softly draw me in.

#5: Hip Hop
OK -so this one is a bit of an outsider, and I really have to be in the mood - and even so we're talking Old Skool bands like De La Soul and Beastie Boys, not this modern RnB rubbish, or Gangsta Bling.  I think it works for the same reason as Bhangra - that quite stylised beat and tempo - but its not a regular choice

And of course, a few that really don't work - particularly:

#6: Iron Maiden
I recently tried listening to Meat Loaf whilst painting and it really didn't work - it was far too distracting.  I can't imagine Van Gough trying to paint his sunflowers whilst enjoying "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter" - although quite possibly he would at least have been able to hear it - even with just the one ear.


Argent said...

The right background music is a must for any creative endeavour, I think - if you're going to have music rather than silence, that is (sometimes, silence is best).

The Blues – everybody needs more Robert Cray in their lives. I recommend Strong Persuader, an old album but one I return to over and over.

Swing – Nuff said, it’s just great.

World – Yep, all those choices are good. There’s something liberating in not being able to understand the language of the lyrics, it frees you up to just enjoy the music as is without trying to fathom out the meaning. BTW, check out Tuvan Throat-singing for total bizarreness.

Easy L – Nowt wrong with Barry Manilowe. Andy Williams and Tony Bennett are a guilty pleasure of mine too.

Hip Hop – Hmm, maybe. Deffo not the modern shouty-crackers crap though.

Iron Maiden – There’s a whole corner of the musicverse that I have not explored and they and their ilk are pretty much in it.

Classical is also an excellent choice. JS Bach is my tool of choice here.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Argent - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, The Number Of The Beast...Metallica by Metallica...

I think classical may be a bit too clever to listen to whilst painting

And i forgot - prog rock. You can't beat a bit of Pink Floyd for painting to!

Lydia said...

Another amazingly thoughtful post. If I were a painter, which I most definitely am not, I would have to second Argent's choice of classical because I listen to it while writing sometimes (I mostly listen to silence).
You made me realize that I have not one Robert Cray cd in my life.
Swing makes me sad because it makes me want to dance and my only dance partner is my Standard Poodle, Bonbon. Michael never "learned" to dance (I keep telling him that if he didn't just pick up his feet and move naturally that there is likely no learning that would click....maybe I am wrong.)
I like World music playing when I clean the house.
I have not listened to Easy Listening music for decades. I used to tune it in late at night during high school when I did homework. It may be the only reason I passed high school!
I like Hip Hop. I like watching it performed so cannot imagine it as background music.
Iron Maiden...you will be disappointed in me when I tell you that I honestly cannot think I have consciously listened to their music ever. It has been on the radio in the past but didn't make its way into my brain.

Thanks for waking up my brain this afternoon with things to ponder.

Titus said...

Got to, got to, got to be Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and 'Howl'. Though at a stretch I'd take Iron Maiden. Always preferred Saxon though.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Lydia - i think most people could probably learn to dance with a few lessons, although not many could learn to be Michael Flattley. Iron Maiden were good back in the day.

Titus - BRMC - i looked them up on youtube and need to investigate further :)

Michael said...

Way back, waaaayyy back, when I was in art school and would pass my nights in the studio painting, I always had a soundtrack. But you know, I never heard it because I would always drop into that right brain creative trance. The outside world would disappear.

I preferred oil for it's slowness, but I would often start out in acrylic.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

michael - yes, exactly - the music is there to help you with that mood and you should almost be unaware of its presence.

I know what you mean about oils - they are great, if only i had the patience

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