Want to get your creative juices flowing so you can write like you’ve never written before? Try using the techniques on this page involving visual art to help inspire you.
Writing this way makes your art more inspired, more honest, and generally more emotional.
Here’s the basic of the technique: you use visual imagery/art to either look at, or think about, when you’re writing your lyrics. The idea is that you’re thinking about this art while you write, almost trying to create a “score” for the art (in the same way that a movie musician would watch a movie and try to write the “score” for the movie track).
I’ve found this method to work extremely well, and some of my favourite lyrics/chord progressions that I’ve written have come from using this technique.
When you sit down with your guitar or piano (etc.), having a piece of art in front of you to look at, and fixate on, is vital. Just trying to “remember” what the art looks like is pretty tough, and might weigh down your efforts. Of course, you may intentionally want "trying to remember the art" as part of the process, in which case be my guest.
You can start to analyze what you see, and just let the emotion of the art sweep you into writing. I’ve found myself to be much more focused and writing music, riffs, and chord progressions that are far more honest.
Writing with this focus on the art really helps to get rid of your ego, and let’s you tap into your subconscious easier.
I recommend you make your room as dark as possible, with only the art lit up. You’ll have less distractions that way, and you will be more likely to get “in the zone” and will be free to express how you’re feeling. Don't forget to turn off your cell phone during this time.
You don’t need to have the art right in front of you when writing the lyrics (although you certainly can). What’s most important here is that you have a strong interpretation for the art.
The first step is find a piece of art that really grabs you, and then you should think of some interpretations about what it might mean.
If you don’t really have many feelings towards the piece of art you're looking at, then you probably won’t be able to write much about it.
When I did this myself, I actually designed a piece of art first, and then I wrote my lyrics based on the scene I created. I’m no painter, so I needed to get a friend to help me with the art.
For the rest of the article, I'm going to focus simply on what it looks like to create some lyrics based on artwork.
The art piece was meant to represent how we, as humans, seem to hold desperately on to things that aren’t the best for us. Whether they be relationships, addictions, bad habits, sin, or anything else, it’s all included. To me it’s very personal as I have felt it to always be relevant to my life, even years after I created it.
The art depicts two scenes. On the top, is a man hanging on a rope in a very dark place. The man is charred from burns, and below him is a sea of flames. The rope he is holding on to is covered in acid, which also is burning him.
Out of his view, behind him, is a projector displaying the images of flames below him. The flames are an illusion, and all of his burns are actually caused by the ropes he holds on to.
Below the flames, opens up a very tranquil scene. As a juxtaposition to the above scene (which was dark and covered in black and red colours), the below scene has very vibrant green and blue colours. This scene takes places in a forest with a pond. There is a small row boat, and a waterfall that leads up to the above scene.
The symbolism of the rope is the bad habit/etc. that you hold on to. There is a lot of fear of falling into those flames, even though if he did, he would actually break through them and fall into the beautiful scene below.
The idea of the art is that if you let go of your vices, what you think will be awful, will actually turn out to be quite an amazing experience, full of serenity and creativity, even if it takes some sacrifice and faith at first.
Here’s the unfinished piece of art to help you get an idea of what it’s like:
This sketch was actually drawn quite a bit later after I had already written the lyrics to the music. I had such a strong idea about the art that I was able to write the lyrics based on all the elements that I wanted to include.
My eventual plan is to release this particular piece of art with the music (once it’s fully mastered and produced). This will create a very cohesive project, with music-lyrics-art all relating to each other.
I expect that anyone who takes the time to learn about the message after listening to the music will be quite excited about the message if they are the type of fan who would appreciate my viewpoint on life.
Each line is completely plugged in to the metaphor that I created, and you can do the same. Study them a bit, because it’s really not so hard to come up with them yourself.
Take a listen to the unmastered music while you read the lyrics below:
There are 3 distinct sections to the song, all split up by the paragraphs.
The first section describes the state of the blackness above, and what it looks like. All I have done really, is just describe what it looks like, and what it feels like. It’s really not complex or special at all, because the idea for the art was so strong.
I talk about how the place is “encapsulating”, and describe how the man hanging on the rope looks like a giant bat (megachiroptera). I even give him the properties of the bat by saying that he’s “clawing” onto the acid rope.
At the end of the verse, he realizes that he needs to let go (Time to loosen grip) and moves on to the next part of the song.
For part 2, it describes him letting go and falling through the projected flames.
In the third part, it describes this man as becoming free, and becoming whole now that he’s let go of his vices. Choosing to lose the hold in his life actually helped him “gain control”.
The music for this piece was not written based on art, only the lyrics, but it turned out really well, and the music matched the lyrics anyways. You can do the same too.
My main goal is that this would give you inspiration to try using visual art yourself when writing music & lyrics. You don’t have to create your own art either! If that’s not the type of thing you can do, then use someone else's art that inspires you.
If the art doesn’t inspire you, I would expect that your lyrics would be equally uninspiring.
I also want to re-iterate that it doesn’t work the same with music. If you are just writing music, looking at an image or painting that you don’t understand can create really amazing music. It all depends on what you want to go for. With music, the key point is that you’re creating a structure & inspiring environment for you to write in; it works differently.
Now go and write something.
My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.
If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.
Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.