Members of Urban Sketchers Ottawa were thrilled to be invited to a dress rehearsal this past week of Harry's Musical World by the Ottawa Pops Orchestra. About 20 of us attended on Friday afternoon at the start of the long weekend. It was not only a wonderful opportunity to practice sketching people and the orchestra, but to also sketch while listening to the orchestra play music from the Harry Potter movies.

I was spellbound listening to the musicians as they warmed up prior to the rehearsal. The little snippets of melodies, varying keys of music,  flutes, violins, trumpets, trombones, together harmonized with my quick sketches which took on a loose, feathery look. 

Once the full rehearsal started, I would become transfixed with sketching and was no longer consciously aware of the music. Other times when the tempo changed to more powerful score I was transported into listening and forgot to sketch.

But wait, can music really enhance our ability to be creative? You bet! But it's important to choose a style that fits the goals to create and whether you are in the beginning stages or latter stages of a creation.

Music accesses the right, creative side of the brain, and different genres affect our moods in different ways. From high energy music that is stimulating to low energy that promotes relaxation, our bodies sync with the music's tempo and intensity. Repetitions in the pieces can also have an impact, as can the types of instruments being played. 

Some examples: If you want to create from a place of passion & energy, playing rock music will help. Country and big band music help access memories, Jazz and blues stir up strong emotions, and sacred music promotes feelings of peace and grounding. Classical music aids spatial perception, new age music can bring us to a state of relaxed alertness, and salsa is great for creating movement in pieces. Shamanic drumming and Gregorian chanting provide calm and work very well for pulsing and repetitive actions. 

So choose the music that best fits what you are trying to create. Don't choose loud music to do delicate work that needs a slow pace. Rock or heavy metal or salsa when painting on a large canvas with broad brushstrokes may work just fine however. When focus is needed, music without vocals is best so the brain is not distracted by the words.

And if you're not finding suitable music, try humming or playing an instrument to get you into the creative spirit. 

The music of Harry Potter is probably not what I would regularly choose when I want to create, but being able to draw to live music rather than a CD or download is an experience I'm glad I was able to participate in.

Urban Sketchers Ottawa is a group of sketchers who share sketching opportunities and events around the city. There is no membership fee, and sketchers of all levels are welcome to join. For more information, visit their Facebook page at Urban Sketchers Ottawa


"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try...