Painting Music

September 26, 2016


Ave Maria (Schubert) by Lil McGill

In February I began a new Painting Music series, creating paintings in response to specific pieces of music, composers, performers and songs.  This is an endlessly rich and satisfying pursuit as music has always been a big part of my in-studio experience, but now with even more focus on the mood and meaning of a song, its history, the energy behind the voice and instruments, lyrics, the depth of feeling in the subtle tones and inherent genius of the artists’ creations.  It is a joy to work in this way and begin collecting my playlist of paintings, a visual map of the journey of my artistic year.  Some of the paintings I like, some I don’t.   I am always surprised by them, but still the process itself is what matters to me most, the engagement with the music, the colors of the sounds, the deep listening.  And the endless fertile ground of music to paint to, new music to discover and the vast appreciation for what gifts these musicians bring to our world, what magic.


With This Love (Peter Gabriel) by Lil McGill

I started off with the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, by Peter Gabriel, which has always moved me – especially the tract “With This Love” – and that’s what I often find, in a whole CD, there will be one track that touches me the way the others don’t and this is what I am looking for – these particular songs that have a special meaning to me, that resonate with my inner journey at this particular time in my life.  Also old favorites that never fail to seek my attention.  While I was painting “With This Love”, I kept seeing this blue stripe down the middle of the canvas, which I didn’t really want there, and so I tried to move it, change it, but the paint kept finding the same way and finally I gave up and left it alone.  Later after the painting had dried and I was looking at it I saw that that blue stripe down the center actually formed a cross, an angel on a crucifix, which is obviously the theme of the movie for which the soundtrack was created.  That the music itself held the energy of that archetypal symbol, and the watery paint carried that energy into this symbolic form:  This kind of magic is difficult for me to ignore and fueled an ongoing exploration of and experiments with the energy of music.  Story after story with each painting, too many to tell, some deeply personal to my own experience.  All magical indicators that I am somehow connecting with the spirit world and that there is an infinite amount to learn about the nature of consciousness.  And so I carried on with all sorts of music.  Classical, rock and roll, gypsy jazz.  Anything that moved me.  A song I heard on the new age station at the doctor’s office, recommendations from friends, music I had never listened to before, a series of greats, Jimi, Joni, Janis, Dylan, Earth Wind & Fire.  You see how endless the joy?  I have painted other works to music over the years – John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and Mingus’ “Prayer for Passive Resistance” and a whole show for Music in the Mountains SummerFest with works by Beethoven, Dvorak and Pink Floyd.


Secret Chord (Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen) by Lil McGill

I can feel myself leaning into a whole new series now but I suspect I will always return to painting music, integrating my emotional resonance with the music that connects my inner world with a unified field of consciousness and my profound delight with the flow of color, light and sound. You can see these paintings and visit me in my studio at the Open Studio Tour (first weekend only) October 8 & 9.  Prints and paintings will be for sale there and on my website here.

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