Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, what do you listen to?
That this question has been asked of me as many times as it has is kind of surprising. No real commentary there, I'm just honestly surprised... Yeah, so I guess I'll just answer it then.
While I do sometimes listen to music while painting, more often than not I have a movie or television show playing. I always pick something that's somehow tonally or thematically linked to the painting or paintings I happen to be working on. The longer it is, the better. That way I don't have to get up, as often. Also, tv shows with a "play all" option are always preferred over the ones that don't for the same reason.
Some of you may wonder how I am not distracted by what's on the tv. Simple: I don't get distracted because I've seen it before. I never, ever watch something for the first time while working (barring the random sporting event that I may have tuned into). So, it's always stuff where I know what's coming.
The biggest reason I prefer movies over music is that I like to have something that I can look away to that cleanses my mental palette. While painting, I can end up staring at a piece for hours with few breaks. This can sometimes cause me to lose perspective and end up with some mediocre drawing or painting that I only come to see after walking away — be it for lunch or at the end of the day. If I have a movie on, I can watch it periodically for a minute or so at a time, allowing me to reset my brain enough to get a fresher look at my painting when my eyes finally return to it.
As for what kind of movies I watch, you'll find a lot of James Cameron, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, and Michael Mann in my collection. Television shows include a lot of Futurama, Venture Brothers, the Simpsons, and South Park, as well as Rome, Deadwood, Band of Brothers, the Pacific, and Battlestar Gallactica. Probably a lot of obvious and stereotypical stuff, but it gets the job done.
Regarding sporting events, despite they're being live, I don't get distracted for two main reasons. One, I'm not really that emotionally invested in them. Two, you can gauge well what's worth looking at by the roar of the crowd and can rest assured you'll catch anything you missed in the instant replay. Still, I find football and baseball good background fodder — even without the emotional or tonal link as mentioned above.
Now, every once in a while, music will be more appealing to me. I can't say whether it's linked to the tides, the day of the week, or that some glow stick in my brain has snapped and caused my feelings on the subject to shift temporarily. So what do I listen to on these occasions?
Sometimes it's film scores. Sometimes it's classical. Most of the time, it's rock or alternative. I'm a big fan of classic rock (something that now apparently includes the 80's according to my local classic rock station). I'd say that The Who is probably my favorite band, but things like the Strawbs, Queen, and Bad Company come up a lot. I still listen to stuff from the grunge era, and I've even gotten into some 80's pop... You know, I guess I'll listen to just about anything as long as it's not country, isn't too repetitive, too electronic, or too grating. I'm not very big on jazz, nor am I big into the blues, but I'll even listen to them should the piece I'm working on feel like it's required. Fact is that my musical tastes were molded in the 80's and pre-boyband 90's. Even so, I've tried to keep up with stuff that's actually been released in the last decade, so I'm not totally out of the loop but at the same time am by no means an expert.
On any given day you can find any given thing playing in my studio. I like to keep changing things up, much the same way that I keep changing up aspects of my process. I guess I'm kind of fickle, and I find that I get bored pretty easily, so by staying out of any regular pattern I somehow manage to keep the boredom at bay.
If anyone reading this has a question they'd like answered in the ongoing FAQ series, by all means ask it in the comments section below.