Stormy Sky & Musical Muse

A Storm Is Brewing, 24×24, acrylic © 2009 Michelle Basic Hendry

Update (07.20): I had to add for interest to the foreground. Between the caffeine and the sleeplessness, I hope it was worth it!

OK – This one nearly killed me…. I am not entirely sure I am finished with it. Sometimes it takes an overnight perspective to be certain – not that there is much left of the night. It is after 3am…

Music is a big part of my process. Many of my paintings have a soundtrack or a theme song. Music moves, pulls out the emotions I draw upon to paint some of my paintings.

A good example of a painting with theme music would be Evanescence“. Allegri’s Miserere and Mozart’s Requiem made up the background. While I was painting “Evanescance”, I learned the historic church was being torn down. I had spent only a little time in this elegant pioneer structure, but the silence and peace of this place imprinted on me. The sadness and loss, the sublime beauty are all captured in Miserere. I played it over and over for the nearly two weeks during which I planned, drew and painted. Frankly, I was so emotionally drained from the work, it took me quite a while to really be able to go back to that ‘place’. It is also very unlikely I will ever part with the original painting.

Every so often, I find a song or piece of music that emotes in a manner that I cannot describe exactly. The word that comes to mind is haunting; the feeling slightly uncomfortable, but, at the same time irresistibly attractive. The music is often in a minor key.

A song that I can feel is going to affect my next painting is one I heard from a television show I have found quite a bit of great music from – The Cleaner. The song is called “Don’t Let me Down“, by Ampop. (I don’t have a good link but it is on iTunes) The song has that feeling – that essence of a deep dark place. In my imagination I can explore this darkness – a darkness with an underlying optimism and spark of light that permeates like an underground stream fills the cracks of a cave. The painting is of an old bathroom sink, the room coloured a warm rose by the curtain covering the window. The light is low. No one has used this room in years… I’ll post the WIP for you next week.

Occasionally it is the lyrics as much as the sound that grabs me. Sarah McLachlan wrote a song on her second album way back in the early 90’s called “Drawn to the Rhythm” (video link). There is a line in this song that I sing every time I hear it and  it is seeping its way into my current work – and my life in general:

In the face of a blinding sun

Awake only to find

That Heaven is a stranger place

Than the one I’d left behind…

I would be very interested to know how music affects your life. We all have a soundtrack, for what we do, who we are… What’s yours?



I finally got my newsletter out earlier this week. I find that after I finish a painting I am inclined to clean up the administrative stuff that piles up before launching into another piece. I spent some time figuring out the YLMP system and then customized it. I plan to make the newsletter monthly – so the next one will be in mid-August.  If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, fill in the field here and you will automatically receive it! The current newsletter, is here.


  1. says

    I really like this painting. It contains two of my favorite things, clouds and blue.

    I so agree with you about music. It has the power to take you places only your imagination understands.

  2. says

    This painting sweeps me away. It’s the kind of painting one could just stare at and get lost in. Beautiful.

    I understand that feeling when some paintings are so emotionally draining. They’re usually the best. And yes, music is an absolute must when painting.

  3. says

    Music inspires my work as well, and Sarah’s music is pretty huge to me.
    If I could see and photograph like she can write and sing, I couldn’t ask for more in life.

  4. says

    Another biggie. It’s beautiful, and broad expanse of sky deserves the space you gave it. I don’t know how you can paint till 3am, I’d be finger painting by then.

  5. says

    really nice open sense of sky, really nice image 😀

    I love Sarah McLachlan’s second album, the whole thing is full great lyrics with wonderful imagery

    if I wasn’t an artist I would be involved with music somehow. just like with art I need some kind of music in my life or I go insane. I have very eclectic music tastes, partly due to my upbringing where I was around all kids of different types of people. Growing up music ranged from Buddy Holly to Gwar :p Not keen on Gwar but to each their own :)

    Music plays such a huge part when I draw and sometimes I have to be careful because a song choice can influence what I am working on. Which can be a problem when I am working on a something that is supposed to be calm and the music switches to something angry :p

  6. says

    I love this sky :) Ahhh blues and oranges. I wish it were real and existed just above my head….the rain in New Hampshire is getting to be ridiculous. By the way, the right music is key to getting the creative juices flowing onto the canvas. My soundtrack always varies. From Coltrane to the Grateful Dead.

  7. says

    I don’t know that I could exist without music, or that any of us could for that matter. From the moment of conception our world begins with the rhythmic comfort of our mother’s heartbeat. Layer upon layer of tone and rhythm creating the very fabric of our being, unique yet universal.
    As children we continue to colour our place in the world with sounds and songs that comfort us in their familiarity. As adults, the complexity of our lives may appear to obscure the simplicity of our previous experiences, but the rhythms and tones, that fabric in all it’s textural glory is still with us. Those infinite patterns provide us with a sense of internal balance, of JOY.
    I believe that my greatest creative moments occur when I am present to the cadence of my environment and my medium. The catalyst may be Mozart or Moby, conduits as am I, to the intrinsic music of my existence.