How I Paint Music

This is a pastel painting based on the baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonata K365. Title: Sonata K365 - Human Readable Time 12X41 Pastel on bonded paper 2017
I begin by reading and making notes on the score for the sonata. Here, I am tracking the harmonic changes in the music.
I have color associations with specific musical harmonies. They are consistent and arise from musical notation. I cannot change them, they are only related to harmony and have nothing to do with how I feel about the music or other elements of music such as texture, instrumentation, timbre, dynamics, or articulation.
I make skeches tracking the harmonic changes in K365 on a grid, measure by measure, from left to right, as the composition would be performed over time. The top two rows depict the simple musical harmonies. The bottom row is a further step removed from the music, preserving the harmonic pattern, but weaving in the colors of a landscape - in this case, the colors of a galaxy in space which I found in a NASA image.
The image of the landscape I have used for Human-Readable Time is a galaxy in deep space - Image credit NASA System Architecture Registration Entry 329981.
A detail image of Human-Readable Time. The notation and text mark measure numbers (time), the placement of colors in the galaxy, and ultimately elements of the music beyond harmonic patterns.
I study and replicate NASA images for myself in pastel to learn their color relationships. This my painting of the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex 22X34 Pastel on bonded paper 2016
My painting of the Orion Nebula 22X30 Pastel on bonded paper 2016. These are experimental only and demonstrate another aspect of my work process.
I create drawings of music that do not incorporate the colors of landscapes - a jazz composition by Tim Daisy called Assembly contains only the more abstract colors of the music.
I create vertically oriented paintings of landscapes from land to sky as stacked horizon lines (pictured horizontally here) - Fantasy Lavender Field 12X36 Pastel on bonded paper 2017
Early work or commissioned work does not leave notation as evidence of the music's structure. Queen's Somebody to Love 12X48 Pastel on canvas 2016
Some work depicts an entire musical composition reading the way letters do in writing, presenting relationships between rows. Bach D minor Sinfonia 12X12 Pastel on canvas 2014
I create some works with pan pastels on paper using sponges, they look fragile and have less saturation - Under the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud 12X41 Pastel on paper 2015
Texture of sponge painted pastel on paper - Detail of Under the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud
Pan pastels
I create some works on paper using stick pastels, and they are more saturated. I may use acrylic ground as a support. The Empty Place 12X41 Pastel on bonded paper 2016
Saturation with rough stick pastels - Detail of The Empty Place
Heavily pigmented pastels
The 2017 Heaven's River series is intended to capture more layers of meaning contained in the music. Here, the pattern reflects the call and response structure of the music and includes text from a poem by Yeats (Fergus and the Druid)with a similar structure. The colors woven into the musical pattern are from a satellite image of Algeria, the part of the Sahara desert called the Land of Terror - Fergus and the Druid 12X41 Pastel on bonded paper 2017
Detail of Fergus and the Druid
Some further images of paintings based on space or satellite images of Earth - Ballade - Stardust 12X41 Pastel on bonded paper 2016 for the Mugellini Festival, Macerata Italy
Scarlatti Sonata K365 - Night - 12X48 Pastel on Canvas (vertically oriented) for Lux Art Consulting 2016
Artwork laid out in my studio, Mount Erebus Workshop.
Me working - Photo credit Yuting Jiang