Composition 6 by Wassily Kandinsky. 1913. Image:

“Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and …stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?” Wassily Kandinsky 1910

Music accompanies us throughout the day while we are driving, playing, or walking along with our ipods. It can create a peaceful ambience as we go about our reading, or stir powerful emotions begging to be expressed in some way, which brings us to this project. There is a wonderful connection between music and visual art which has been examined by many artists. Russian-born Wassily Kandinsky was fascinated by this relationship and explored it in many of his paintings. He is credited with creating the first truly abstract paintings like the one above, and is suspected of possibly being a synaesthete, having the ability to see sound as colour and vice versa. This project gives children the opportunity to think about the emotions music awakens, and how they choose to paint the sounds they hear.

Ten year old Sophie painted this while listening to E.S.T.’s ‘From Gagarin’s Point of View

“In the beginning it was relaxing like a day at the beach, so I made some blue and white waves. In the middle of the song it turned darker, so I decided to paint the other half with black and white which also turned to grey. At the end, both sides come together.”

Sophie painted this while listening to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

“You may think it’s a pink background with a bunch of colourful splatters on it, but think again. The beginning is not too angry so I thought dark pink was perfect. To represent the anger and violence, I decided to do some black splatters, but then it became more joyful so I chose colour – like a war between colours. I chose to make splatters to represent the energy and anger.”


  • paint
  • paint brushes in a variety of sizes
  • paper
  • music


1. Select two pieces of music which evoke different emotions. Instrumental pieces are better so children are not distracted by the lyrics. You should also make sure they are reasonable in length since you will be playing them twice.

2. Play one of the pieces of music and have children close their eyes and think about the overall mood created. Is the music sad, happy, fast, slow, filled with energy and joy, or more reflective and mellow? When the music ends, ask them how it made them feel. Discuss how they might express these emotions in their painting through the use of line, shape, colour, texture, and repetition. A line can be delicate, fine, and dotted, or strong, thick and solid. Shapes can be delicately detailed or large blobs of energetic colour. Pastels can convey gentleness, while bold colour conveys strength. There are happy, bright colours like yellow and orange, or sad colours like browns and grays; cold colours like green, blue and purple, or warm ones like yellow, orange and red. Remind children that this project lends itself to abstract painting rather than realism. Otherwise children may have a tendency to get lost in the details.

4. Now play the piece a second time and ask children to try and capture the overall mood of the music they are listening to by applying what you have just discussed. Make sure you have a good selection of colours mixed in advance.

5. Repeat above steps with the second piece of music. Once finished, explain to the children that when someone looks at their finished painting, they should be able to sense how the music made them feel.


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Filed under Artists, music, painting, Wassily Kandinsky

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