• AmandaK

Painting to Music

Your Right Brain

Have you ever been listening to an upbeat song on the radio and felt your mood lift? Or perhaps you have found yourself deliberately searching out music that compliments your mood? Music absolutely has the ability to alter our emotions, invoke memories, and enhance experiences.

Although I have been painting for as long as I can remember, I only took a handful of art classes in college. One of my most memorable classes emphasized the importance of encouraging your brain to use the "right hemisphere" while doing creative activities. The left side of the brain is typically more logical, used for language and mathematics, while the right side is responsible for the arts, including music. I have found that listening to music is the quickest, most effective way to get me in a creative mood.

For me, and for most people, the type of music must be selected carefully. While music is "right brain", language is not. Listening to instrumental music works best because it allows your left brain to turn off, instead of asking it to work on deciphering the lyrics. While painting something for myself, something that takes a whole bucket of my best creative juices, I like listening to artists like Einaudi Ludovico.

Painting to Music for Kids

Painting to music is a fun way to teach children how to express their feelings through art. Here are the steps I use while doing this activity, but feel free to find your own way!

1. Introduce the activity.

Begin by setting out the supplies ahead of time. I like to use tempera, poster, or finger paints. Finger paints work best because they are a little thicker and really allow for kids to get a feel for the experience, literally! Ask your child questions like, "What color do you think of when I say the word 'happy'? What about 'angry'? If 'loneliness' were a color, what color would it be? What does summer look like? What does 'cold" look like?" and so on.

If necessary, make an effort to limit other distractions. I like to snack while painting, but for this activity I remove snacks. If there is more than one child doing the activity, arrange them in a way that they have plenty of space from each other and cannot see each other's work.

2. Select the music.

Start with something upbeat. Ask your child to paint what he or she feels on a paper or canvas. Try not to offer too many suggestions, but prompt them if they seem stuck. Ask, "What makes you happy?" or "What does a good day look like?" or "What do you picture yourself doing while listing to this song?"

If you're feeling up to it, invite your child to use a variety of tools: a brush, a painting spatula, their fingers, a sponge, etc.

3. Rinse and repeat!

After your child has had adequate time to paint, stop the music and repeat the exercise. I suggest beginning a new painting on a new paper for each new song or music type. Pause for a minute or two in between to allow your kid to get out of their previous head space. When the next track is played, ask them prompting questions again to help them "get in the mood".


I suggest using paint because I feel that pushing around paint with a brush or fingers can be very therapeutic. But that's because I am a painter! If you or your child prefer a different medium, this activity can be done with anything - crayons, chalks, play-dough! If you're feeling particularly adventurous, line several different mediums in a row and allow them to pick the one that speaks to them!

I also encourage you to find a wide selection of music for this activity. Aside from your "happy" song, try to find songs that are fast and energizing, slow and peaceful, and even melancholy. I suggest trying 3-5 different songs to really get a good feel for how the music effects you. Just to be safe, try to finish with something that won't leave them feeling sad or angry at the end of the activity! ;)

Let me know if you try this activity and how it goes for your child! I'd love to see pictures of the artwork they come up with! For more tips and tricks, visit the link below: