Painting the Sound of Jazz – Brad Mehldau – San Francisco


Painting the sounds created by Brad Mehldau April 25 2013

Last night I went to a solo concert by Brad Mehldau, a young pianist in jazz. I decided to leave my crazy mind, my business mind and my mind that is crammed with issues from ‘the other world’ and go back to my world – art. I had planned to bring a small moleskine notebook and a tiny box of watercolors. But Mehldau is big, bigger than a little moleskine notebook so I bought a larger book, one that could still fit into my purse. I bought some neocolor watercolors, soluble caron d’ache crayons. (I could draw now, later add water to them if I wanted.)  I had an aisle seat at the SFJAZZ Center. I wouldn’t distract anyone if I sketched during the performance.

How was going to paint sound? The concert started  – I listened – tentatively, I started to sketch what I was hearing. Interpreting the concert in a whole new way, I made one drawing after another listening to the notes build and fall, soften and sprinkle. It was like being on drugs. I was full of music. One time I came out of that world and looked at Mehldau sitting there, playing the piano, my mind drawing what I saw. How different. How much richer my experience of drawing and listening had become.


Sketch made at Yoshi’s in 2011

At the beginning of the concert I was just using crayons, but some drinking water was by my feet. Rubbing a little of water on my paper in the dark, I put crayon to paper.. Oh how nice!  What neat effects! Needless to say I kept going, pouring more water on the paper, hunting for a tissue to mop up my drawing and my lap!

Before going to bed I couldn’t wait. I looked at my drawings and worked on them a little knowing his music was still fresh in my head. Waking up this morning thinking about the sketches I started planning a big abstract painting about sound. I remember Ralph DuCasse, my mentor, saying, when you are into your painting the first thought in your head when you wake up is about your painting. You want to go see what you did the night before. Leigh Hyams would have said the same thing. She was there on my shoulder when I was drawing. I think the following painting was made while I listened to ‘Holland.’  Do any of the sketches remind you of a particular piece  Mehldau plays? Click on images to see details of the drawings.





24 thoughts on “Painting the Sound of Jazz – Brad Mehldau – San Francisco

    • Oh thank you Linda. I wouldn’t be able to ever catch up with your family! But you never know there is the symphony, opera, electronic music, the new sounds coming out in movie shorts…… Right now it’s jazz. You must go to the new SFJAZZ Center when you are in town.


  1. Must have been a wonderful experience huh?! I love his work and to see your music sketches made me very happy! I can hear his music through them. By the way, you’ve captured him very very well!
    🙂 Happy Monday, Carla!


  2. You nailed him! We saw the next night’s gig, a duet of pianos only with Kevin Hayes, and it was sublime. They read each other’s minds perfectly. the sketches are kind of what I see when I listen to him/them.


    • WOW ! With this statement you have put me on a high for a week! We will see if I can put something on my now 4 by 6 foot bare white canvas. It’s so empty…..and I don’t have Mehldau playing for me in the studio.


    • Thank you Poppy. I’m waiting for another one of your paintings to appear on your blog. I learn from them. I’d like to add shapes to my paintings although right now I don’t see Mehldau’s music in solid shapes.


      • He ‘thunders’ That is what my son says. The music builds. I thought of the word relentless when hearing that left hand build the sound but I think thundering crescendo is better. I like the little diddly do light quick notes. I’m painting to his music in the studio now. The painting is not up to his standards but the process is what counts and I’m having fun.


    • Thank you Andrew. I am a painter but go off into photography at times so I appreciate seeing your photographs and reading about your creative process with a canon which was my camera of choice for years. I just got the new little Sony because it is so light and small. and I am back to painting. I saw Ground Zero before the new construction. By your photographs I see and hear the water. Next on my bucket list is South America, Cuba and ….


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