Thursday, November 3, 2011

Art Room Diaries - Music and Art - Kandinsky Style

Is it possible to show what music "looks" like through art?  
Do different kinds of notes and chords have a color?
Could a line show qualities of a specific voice or instrument?
What sorts of feelings or emotions can you effectively portray through these elements of art?

These were some of the questions we explored as we studied Russian modern artist, Wassily Kandinsky in my "Inspired by the Masters" workshop.  Kandinsky once said "Color is the keyboard..the artist is the hand that plays."  He actually had a condition (synesthesia) where he literally saw colors when he heard music.  Can you imagine? 
Composition IV, 1913, Wassily Kandinsky

For this lesson, we listened to different types of music, from Beethoven to French jazz to bluegrass.  Each student filled a rectangle on their paper with lines, color and shapes that they felt portrayed the music playing. We used oil pastel and watercolors as our medium. It was so interesting to see the variations in the kids' work, but also how similar they were.  There we a few pieces of music where most students used the same color palette or similar lines. Maybe that Kandinsky was onto something!

This lesson is easily adapted to almost any age. I've done it with 1st graders and 12th graders and everyone learns some important lessons about the inherent power of line, shape and  color - a basic tenet of modern art! This is often the first non-representational art that really clicks with kids and they are able to easily connect with the elements of line, color and shape in an abstract way that they understand.   


  1. This is really great, Kerrie! I think abstraction is the hardest artistic concept to actually understand, and this seems like a wonderful lesson that simply makes it clear.