Textiles 1: Ideas and Processes Nina O'Connor

Learning Log

Exercise 1.6 Music

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I was looking forward to this exercise, firstly because I am gradually overcoming my fear of drawing and once I get started I enjoy it, I was happy to move away from ‘words’ as inspiration and thought a ‘performance’ piece would be fun. I was surprised to find that the music interfered with my head.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise as although I enjoy live music and listen to the radio in the car, I rarely combine it with another activity, and never choose to have it in the background.

The first three drawings are on A2 at an easel, with the jugs arranged on a white paper roll background, with no music.

Using oil pastels, my first attempt was a little hurried and not carefully observed, although the jug in the middle is a reasonable representation.


In between this drawing and the rest, I took a workshop at West Dean with Mark Cazalet which had a very positive effect on my confidence and consideration of colour and value.  I turned off the lights to maximise the shade and tone and drew the following with graphite.  Although I am still a little tentative and could be bolder, this was an enjoyable process and I was encouraged by the results.


I chose to use soft pastels and mixed media paper for the third drawing.


Unfamiliar with soft pastels, I found them a pleasure to use as they responded well to my tentative approach and light touch and worked alongside coloured pencils used occasionally to sharpen a line or add detail.

Choosing the graphite drawing to work from, using two golds, silver & bronze metallics, black and white oil pastels and Daler Rowney Ingres Brown A3, I played Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  As I don’t have a ‘music library’ or favour anything particular I chose the Mozart inspired by Rothko who loved Mozart Opera’s and particularly Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute.


The choice of metallic oil pastels was intended to put me in a party/performance mood, I was disappointed, I found it really difficult to ‘allow the music to influence my drawing’. It was a distraction, disturbing my concentration.  ‘Does the music have a colour?’, not to me.  The rhythm was varied, the faster music with a stronger beat sped up my hand, otherwise I was irritated or oblivious to it, it was pleasant on low, even relaxing, but played little part in the drawing and did not provoke a ‘performance’.  In fact, it was almost impossible to make it so, even when I turned up the volume.

For my second drawing, I used a range of blues, yellow and orange Sharpies on Canson Mi-Teintes pale orange A3 paper.   I chose The Overture from The Mikado.  It was part of my childhood, my Dad perfomed in Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta.  Familiar to me, with an uplifting, strong beat which usually makes me feel good, this should produce a more ‘performative’ piece.  But no, I found it hugely distracting, I wanted to join in and enjoy the music, but I couldn’t multi-task.  Singing and drawing didn’t mix! It was distracting, I couldn’t concentrate on the drawing, I haven’t used Sharpies to draw, they were alien to me and the faster the beat, the more I was scribbling, speeding up, unable to focus.


For the third drawing, I started with Bobby Ferrin, Don’t Worry be happy, an easy going mellow tune and watercolour pans and A3 mixed media paper.  The more familiar the tune the more distracting it was.  I abandoned the watercolours and A3 paper and started again with A2 and soft pastels and listened to George Ezra.  I was singing along but it was even harder to draw then, I just wanted to switch it off and draw to the sounds of the birds coming through the window.  The pastels are flowing, turning down the sound so the music was quietly in the back ground creating a ‘feel-good’ fun day out atmosphere, I was more relaxed and a little more playful, producing the most successful drawing, in my opinion.


This exercise was a revelation to me, it highlighted how distracting I find music in conjunction with other activities.   Although I was aware that background noise is distracting for me, this clearly illustrated how much it confuses my thoughts and why it is so difficult to concentrate.  I have always found it easier and quicker to do housework in an empty house, hugely distracted by television and children/teens/husbands in the background.

The exercise was ‘to build skills and take risks rather than create finished outcomes’.  It definitely improved my looking and seeing, the use of soft pastels and coloured pencils. I would also work from a personal sketch again in the future to develop drawing skills.

One thought on “Exercise 1.6 Music

  1. Great reflection, this really made me smile. On this exercise I found the music similarly distracting and ‘separate’ from my mark making. I like your final, positive reflection on what you’ve learned rather than focusing on the finished outcomes. I need to do that more.


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