Develop a lexicon of line. Through responding to various types of music with different mark-making tools, you will experience a range of line weight, texture and gesture.

Kazuya Akimoto, Abstract Japanese Calligraphy


In this KQED Art School video, painter Ala Ebtekar talks about Persian miniature painting and how it relates to music [see minute 4:00].


  • India ink
  • A variety of unusual mark-making tools (twigs, chopsticks, feathers, string, leaves, etc.)
  • Several sheets of paper
  • A playlist of a diverse range of 8 songs


  • Make a playlist of songs that are unfamiliar to you. Include upbeat songs, slow songs, and songs that use different types of instruments
  • Cover your work area with newspaper so you can get messy. Number each piece of paper (1-8).
  • Gather a variety of mark-making tools, and be creative—use twigs, chopstick, feather, string, leaves, etc.
  • Use a shallow container and fill with 1/2 inch of India Ink.
  • Place a single sheet of paper in front of you, number-side down.
  • Cue up the playlist and press play. It's important to be unfamiliar with the songs so that you don't have a preconceived sense of the song's rhythm.
  • Dip your tool in the ink. Imagine you are a conductor of an orchestra. Feel the rhythm of the music and freely move your tool across the surface of the page, recording the sounds as lines. You should not make pictures, only abstract marks.
  • For each song, pick a different tool. When you are finished, you should have six to eight distinctly different drawings. These can be your lexicon of line to be applied to future drawings. You may choose to label the mood of each type of line—energetic, dynamic, calm, etc.


  • Lay out each of your line paintings. Title each one with a descriptive word that best captures the energy of the line.
  • Post one or more of your line drawings online, including a title, and tag #ArtSchoolElements.