An Easy Paint to Music Exercise after Wassily Kandisnky


 Kandinsky Music Exercise8

Allow 2 hours for this exercise.

Kandinsky was a Russian artist and musician.  He believed abstract art could express just as much feeling as music. In this exercise you will create a colourful and beautiful abstract composition to the tune of your own music.


  • Good quality watercolour paper
  • 7 tubes of watercolours, blue, red and yellow (both cool and warm) and one tube of black or very dark grey/blue if you prefer.
  • Container for water
  • Board and tape (optional)
  • Rags for wiping up spills
  • 1 medium sized watercolour brush with a good point.

Ask at your art supplier if you are not sure about what you will need.

Choose a favourite track from your CD collection.  In music, a motif is a part of the tune that is repeated over and over again (there might be more than one).  Listen to the track with your eyes closed to establish the motifs.  This is important when completing the following artwork.

TIP: With watercolour, it is best to work while the paint is completely wet or completely dry.  Working into damp paint may cause some frustration. 🙂

Step 1

Tape your paper to a board if you have one but this is not necessary.  You can work on a paper pad if you wish.

Kandinsky Music Exercise

Step 2

Put out a generous amount of cool yellow into your palette with a small amount of cool blue.

Add water until the colour is pale and clear yet vibrant.  Test on a piece of spare paper first. This is how my mixture looked with water added (mostly yellow.)

Kandinsky Music Exercise2

When you have the colour you are happy with, drag it across the paper in horizontal strokes working quickly while the paint is wet.  I placed a bound book under the top of my board so all the drips would run to the bottom of the page, where I mopped them up with a damp brush.  Don’t be timid, your marks will be perfect according to what evolves organically.  Take a break and allow this to dry.  Depending on the day, it could take 10-20 minutes.  I tested it on some scrap paper first, this colour should be a light lime green.Kandinsky Music Exercise3
Step 3

When the work is dry, mix up a small amount of black, load a thin brush with the mixture and close your eyes.  Put on the music and paint or draw a line that suits the rhythm of the melody.  Perhaps a swirling line for a smooth rhythm and a zigzag line for a jerky rhythm.  It is your interpretation only and whatever you put down will be perfect.  It is best to start and end off the edges of the page.

Kandinsky Music Exercise4

Step 4

Mix up six colours ready to start the next process.  Use some light colours and some dark ones.  Colours directly from the tube tend to be boring so mix a little of an opposite colour to make your colours jump off the page.

 Kandinsky Music Exercise5

Along the line, paint a shape each time you hear a motif in the melody.  Make the marks different sizes, colours and shapes.  Use other shapes if there is more than one motif in the melody.  The music will inspire you to keep painting so use your feelings to add different shades of colour around the shapes and along the black lines.  When the track is finished stop painting, that way you’ll leave some restful areas.

 Kandinsky Music Exercise6

My music was happy so I used a lot of yellow, it also was quite romantic and soothing so I used pale blue and pink.  There are joyful melody motifs all over my painting!  Try to rinse your brush with water in between making these marks and drag the colour over the page to create depth.  Don’t worry about spills and drips, that’s what makes the work so very special and unique.

Kandinsky Music Exercise7
If you want some soft watery edges as I have, wet a clean brush with plenty of water picking up some wet paint, drag the water across the paper a little way.  Make sure the brush is filled with water and no colour.   This is my finished painting, can you see the water marks, I love them!Kandinsky Music Exercise8

You may also like to paint after the great master, Wassily Kandinsky in acrylics.

Related articles:


Choosing Watercolour Paper


Choosing the perfect paper is the first place to start when undertaking a watercolour painting.

There are 3 types of watercolour paper:

  • Hot pressed –  this is a very smooth paper and good for detailed work.
  • Cold pressed – this paper has a semi-rough surface and is sometimes called NOT paper, meaning “not hot pressed.”  This is the best paper for beginners.
  • Rough – this paper has a course finish good for producing flecked or textured effects.

All papers come with “size”.  This is a weak glue solution that makes the paper absorb less paint.  Most modern machine made papers are treated on both sides with “size”.

More expensive handmade papers are treated on only one side.  This is usually the side with sheen.  Otherwise, a good quality paper will have a watermark which reads the right way around.

Watercolour papers are also measured by weight, for example 180 GSM.  I am not sure, yet have always thought GSM to mean “grams per square metre”.  Anyway, the heavier the paper, the better the quality and the more forgiving it will be.

A Few Facts About Watercolour


These are some of the amazing benefits of painting in watercolour:

  • One of the most delicate and sensitive of all painting mediums.
  • Beautifully fresh and translucent when not overworked.
  • Unpredictable and best left to dry and do its “own thing”  Only then does the picture speak to you.
  • Watercolour painting works best when the artist is comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Chance marks and happy accidents are part of the process and can add sparkle and spontaneity to your work.
  • A beautiful delicate translucency comes from the white of the paper.
  • Paint dries quickly or slowly according to the amount of humidity in the air.
  • Colours dry paler than when first put down.
  • Allowing a layer to dry and placing another one over it can create beautiful unusual colours.
  • Working quickly in what is called, “wet-in-wet” is another method which will add interesting and mysterious effects.
  • Watercolours cannot be scraped off or painted over like other mediums.
  • Can be used to build lovely transparent layers of paint. This can only be done if each layer is left to dry completely.
  • Watercolours are non-toxic, portable, easy to clean up, tap ready with a long shelf life.
  • Good quality watercolour pigments do not fade.  I highly recommend Schminke watercolours on good quality cotton rag paper.
  • Watercolours can be used to create texture by using a dry brush, sponge or spattering with a toothbrush. They lend themselves to a variety of techniques
  • Watercolour can be used on Gesso primed board and other non-absorbent surfaces to create unusual and beautiful results (see below*)   This link gives information on how to prime a painting canvas
  • There is no need for an easel, just tape the paper to a board and place it flat on a table with the top raised a little higher .
  • Watercolour painting requires a knowledge and consideration of the paper and to this end, I have placed a link below.


Mar 2012-3 003

My watercolour work above has lots of what I used to call “cauliflower” marks as a distinctive part of the work.  I often discarded paintings with these watery marks until my teacher at art school told me to welcome them.  She called these marks “blooms” and said they are very beautiful and spontaneous.  These marks usually form when working wet with a lot of water and a small amount of pigment.

The works below are some of my watercolours on paper.


*Yes it is possible to use watercolour on a Gesso primed canvas. and here is one below.



In my next post I will write about the first place to start with watercolour, choosing the paper.