Exercise: Abstract illustration


“Listen to a piece of instrumental music by a musician such as:

  • George Gershwin
  • The Gypsy Kings
  • Beethoven
  • Miles Davis

As you listen to the music create marks which convey your interpretation of the essence or mood of the piece. Work quickly and intuitively to bring a degree of self-expression to the exercise. Be selective in your use of materials, colours, marks and textures.”

My chosen musician was “The Gipsy Kings” and the song I listened to was “Bamboleo”.  Below is the first image I created whilst listening to the song:

This was a very new method for me, and I wasn’t really sure whether I was expressing onto the canvas correctly. I guess that this is what my mind conjured up from the musical experience, but I found myself almost trying to be more obscure than I usually would, knowing that this is an abstract piece.


“Stand back from your worksheet and choose an adjective or word that you feel describes the tone of the piece. This is your interpretation and not a definition of it. Go through your drawings and choose a square area that you feel communicates the meaning of your chosen word and has visually interesting qualities.”

Below is the cropped part of the image which I chose the word “Heated” to represent:

As I was listening to the song, I was visualising a flame getting bigger. The voice of the lead singer starts quite soft and then opens up for the chorus.

Using this cropped image as a starting block, I began to reproduce the image with my adjective word in mind. While still listening to the song, created the image below:

I used my visualisation of flames from a fire being separated from each other but occupying the same space. Like the song, I tried to create a sense of something growing, becoming more fierce, but with accents of lighter colours that highlight the structure of the song. To create this piece, I used a digital Gouache and oil brush. I think the two different types of textures the brushes create added some depth to the final version.

Below I added a title to show what this piece might look like as a CD cover:

To keep the flow of the image, I made a copy of the image layer, added the font and created a clipping mask to fill the text with the original image. I think this gives the text a uniform and doesn’t take too much away from the artwork.


I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone for this exercise. Putting my brain on autopilot and seeing what spills out was exciting and harder than I thought. This being my first ever abstract piece, I am quite pleased with the results.