Music, like art, is a universal language. We all use music to get us through those hard times, to trigger childhood memories, and what are those milestones in our lives without the songs we choose to celebrate them?
Which is why I think it’s just as important to have the right music to accompany your painting. Perhaps you listen to podcasts, watch live streams or simply put your favourite album on repeat. My musical catalogue day to day is quite varied, but when I’m painting there’s usually a documentary or instrumental music playing. I find song lyrics distracting while I’m painting, and I get so caught up in my world of colours that the music fades into the background anyway.
Below I’m sharing my top five Spotify playlists that carry me off to the most wonderful places imaginable. Some of these songs are old favourites, others chance discoveries, and others became the springboard to a new painting. Enjoy!
1. Deep Focus (by Spotify)
So, the clue’s in the title here, and I was probably also biased by the cover artwork. Deep Focus is a collection of gentle, atmospheric and very moving songs that I can listen to on a loop. These songs are particularly great when I’m working on abstract colours and shapes, where I need to concentrate on letting the colours blend, and generally having a relaxed mindset. There’s no vocals, just beautiful guitars, pianos and orchestras, and many of them feel totally as though they’ve been written in the vacuum of space.
Favourite Songs: Glaciers – Lights and Motion, Dreams of Another Reality – August Wilhelmsson, Nothing It Can – Helios.
2. Ambient Musical Genre (by Spotify)
Another playlist made by the Spotify app itself is this beautiful collection of songs with an ‘ambient’ sound. This is my go-to playlist when I’m out in nature, in need of relaxation, or even when I’m dreaming of my next adventure. I’ll set the tone of what I want to feel by picking just the right songs. Very similar in style to Deep Focus, and with quite a few overlaps, this is another that goes on repeat without me paying too much attention, until a song hits just that perfect nuance.
Favourite Songs: Fireflies – Lights and Motion.
3. Cosmic (Created by me)
It’s not as simple as just choosing songs related to space or the planets. This is a collection of songs that are directly or indirectly inspired by the cosmos and are as varied as heavy electro beats and loud guitars to the softest piano keys and classic orchestras. Artists include David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Gustav Holtz and Hans Zimmer.
Favourite Songs: Gravity – Embrace, Space Oddity – David Bowie, Talkin’ Hawkin’ – Pink Floyd.
4. Pink Floyd – The Endless River
Okay, not technically a playlist, but it’s still going on my list. The fifteenth and final album by the masters of progressive rock, The Endless River is a masterpiece of minimalist instruments, ambient sounds, rock and beautiful yet limited vocals. Like all their greats, Pink Floyd has the power to transport you to the edges of the solar system and back again, whether they intended to or not. There’s even a snippet of vocals from the legendary Professor Hawking too.
Favourite Songs: The Lost Art of Conversation, Talking’ Hawkin’, Allons-y.
5. Planet Earth II (Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea, Jasha Klebe)
If you haven’t heard this stunning soundtrack to David Attenborough’s series of the same name yet, close this blog and listen to it right now. There’s no better tribute to nature than when music can personify the fear of baby iguanas, epic mountain ranges, and even a modern bustling city, with quite so much tenderness and diversity. A beautiful, riveting and moving soundtrack from start to finish. Not many songs can reduce this artist to tears, unless they’re about penguins and the sheer determination and grit. Many of these songs were also direct inspiration for my Cosmic Nature paintings too, so a massive thanks to the composers and Sir David for taking me on this musical journey.
Favourite Songs: Chinstrap Penguins, Starlings, We Are The Designers.
Check out the links or open up your Spotify and let me know if you’re inspired. What do you listen to when you’re painting?
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*Blog cover – The Endless River (Pink Floyd) album artwork