Mark-making to music. A brief explanation.

This is probably the most ‘mindful’ of the Paint Kitchen workshops so far. Our workshop contents, until now have been designed according to the results from our surveys, working around the question ‘what would you like to learn?’ – the results were highly in favour of up-cycling and chalk painting, which were great results for us because we are all about combining art and painting with re-using furniture and eco-friendly products.

Problems and solutions

We knew that a very current solution was also needed for the equally important issue of mental health and wellbeing, in the form of an affordable and highly rewarding creative workshop. So that’s when we took on the challenge of designing ‘mark-making to music’.

The session had to both allow the learners to ‘lose themselves’ in experimentation, and then re-engage and ‘find themselves’ by discovering how they worked, as individuals, with patterns.

The plan

For this, we needed to create a level playing field. The first part of the workshop takes all the decision making out of the picture. The hardest challenge for an artist or designer is a blank sheet of paper, with no specific instructions on what to do. Those pesky ‘loose briefs!’ To avoid the debacle of loose briefs, we let the musicians and or/composers do the work for us, and set about interpreting what we heard. The tools we used were simple – paint drizzle sticks and charcoal onto paper. All we did was create a playlist of varied musical pieces, and then set about interpreting the sounds we heard, and that is where it got very interesting, because we were all different.

Radiohead ‘Idioteque’ interpretation 1

Radiohead ‘Idioteque’ interpretation 2

Altogether, we tried 8 pieces of music, each very different from the other, and we made marks to each piece. Some listeners looked for rhythm, spaces, note lengths etc., and some, usually readers or writers, ‘felt’ the atmosphere of the music, letting the sounds evoke memories or pictures of places in their mind. There was no skill level or intricacy involved in this experimental part of the journey. The learner became lost in their own interpretative skills for one hour of pure self-indulgent discovery.

Eight interpretations of music.

The meaning

The next stage of most artistic experiments is to justify the reasons for indulging in the actions in the first place and contextualise the product, for example, finding an end product and describing the work which was created.

The results, although each one unique, have similarities to both ancient cave painting and to more contemporary action painting. Some cave paintings, beautifully described in Anthony Gormley’s recent television documentary, were possibly attempting to convey the rhythm of herds of large animals stampeding by the painter’s cave entrance, with a sequence of red circles following a line around the ‘room.’ In Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, the energy and intensity was shown when the colours came into contact with the canvas and that statement of pure expression itself became art.

For the latter part of the workshop, we wanted to continue the discovery theme for a while, before we wrapped everything up with an ‘end product’, so after a brief discussion, we came to a decision about what each individual felt was their own most successful (in terms of enjoyment, aesthetics and engagement) mark making exercise out of the 8 experiments.

From that , we worked (deliberately without the aid of the music) on a small canvas, to replicate the pattern, and then we further refined the pattern to an even smaller canvas.

Canvases showing refinement of a selected pattern


Painting that comes directly ‘from the soul’ such as mark-making is very pure and without contamination from trends or fashion, and it can be seen in so many forms of art, either canvas on walls or as a surface decoration technique. Because Paint Kitchen specialise in the teaching of paint techniques, we wanted to apply the mark-making styles we had developed to help our learners to bring their mark-making skills into their furniture painting either as their own hobby or as a furniture art business venture. It therefore seemed the best way to end the workshop was to create a small object as a take-home example of the learners style or as a permanent memory of the mindful workshop. If the learner had labelled their experimental studies with the name of the piece of music they were listening to at the time, they could use that as a name for their newly discovered mark making technique. With all this in mind, we felt that we had designed both a rewarding, mindful, and memorable workshop which allowed the learners to discover something about themselves and to take home something to remind them of their skills. If you would like to enquire about this workshop, we would love to hear from you. Just email We have priced the workshop at £35 per person, and they will be held at Whalley Old Grammar School in Lancashire. The dates are to be arranged upon enquiry.

object decorated in mark making techniques using a selection of musical influences