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The Creative Corner: "Art for the Five Senses"

making a sound drawing

Home Learning  |  The Creative Corner  

Episode 7: A lot of art is made to be seen — but what if you could touch, hear, and even smell works of art? In this episode, host Lauren Paullin shows you how to mix paints that smell like pastries and transform sounds into sketches. You'll also learn about a fascinating condition called synesthesia, which links multiple senses together in the brain so that some people can taste music, hear color, and smell words! Developed for students in grades 4- adults.

The Creative Corner is an  Art for the Journey production, presented by VPM and brought to you by  Earthsong.

Additional Resources:

Performing in Color: Watch and listen to musician, neuroscientist, and synesthete Kaitlyn Hova as she demonstrates her experience of chromesthesia (when sound and sight are linked) with a violin light show.

Making Music Visible: These three illustrators and animators have created digital art based on the way they see music and hear shape and color.

Painting Music: Learn more about Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky, who began painting sounds and music notes when he was a child, and how synesthesia shaped his signature vivid, colorful style.

Virginia Standards of Learning Connections (Grades 4-6)

Arts (Visual): 4.4, 4/5/6.5, 4.13, 5.17, 6.3;   English: 4.1, 4.4;  Science: 4.1, 6.1

Art Project Guides:

Spiced Egg Tempera Paint
For thousands of years artists have been making paint out of natural materials, today we’ll be doing the same using ingredients typically found in cooking. To make our own tempera paint we will be combining eggs (our sticky binder) and spices (our pigment) to demonstrate how something you normally think of as tasting and smelling good can also become a beautiful work of art for you to look at. (Eating raw eggs isn’t good for you, so we’ll admire these paintings through our senses of touch, sight, and smell.) This project can get a little messy, so you may want to lay down newspaper or a placemat, and wear an apron or a smock.

Supplies Needed: 

  • Eggs (separated)
  • Ground/powdered spices in different colors
  • A few small bowls
  • A spoon (or tablespoon)
  • A fork or whisk for mixing
  • A cup of water
  • Thick paper
  • Paintbrush(es)

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. First, separate the yolks of your eggs into small bowls. Crack each egg over a bowl or a sink, carefully making sure that the yellow yolk doesn’t spill out. Pass the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell until all of the egg white has spilled out, and then place the yolk in its own small bowl.

2. Choose a few spices with different colors, and mix a spoonful of one spice together with one egg yolk. Stir until the two ingredients are well combined. If the “paint” becomes too thick, add a few drops of water and stir again.

3. Repeat this process until each of your spices has been mixed together with an egg yolk, and you have a few different colored paints.

4. Now that your paints are prepared, let’s make some art! Before diving in, you might want to make a sample swatch of all your colors to see how they look on paper. Notice how the saturation (boldness or brightness of the color) and texture of your paint differs with each spice.

5. Use your paint to create a picture! You could paint something inspired by the foods you’re working with, a landscape based on the plants that made your spices, or something completely original. Have fun experimenting with these unusual paints, and enjoy the process — it is just as important as the final product. What do you notice about how the paints act on paper? How are they different from other paints you have used (watercolors or poster paints, for example)?

6. Take a look at your finished painting! Have you ever painted something that smells so delicious? Before this, did you know you could make art that influences all of your senses? Did you ever think you would paint using only food? These paints can’t be stored to use again, so if you have some left, try out another composition!


  • Your paint may be easier to mix if you break up the egg yolk before adding your spices.
  • Different spices will create different textures in your paint; if you have one that is too thick, you can add a little water to thin it out until it’s spreadable.
  • ­ Your paint will be liquidy - thick paper is best for holding your paints and it’s always a good idea to put down some newspaper or cardboard before you start painting to help prevent a mess.
  • Dipping the bristles of your paintbrush in water before painting with your spice tempera paints will help prevent them from getting sticky and stiff.
  • Be sure to rinse out your paintbrush after using each color of paint! We do this partly because it prevents our colors from blending together and becoming muddy, and partly because we’re painting with materials that can make our brushes difficult to work with. Keeping them clean will keep them in good shape.
  • When working with raw eggs, remember to wash your brushes with soap and water after painting, and then wipe down your work surface.

Mindful Sound Drawing
This activity is an abstract drawing challenge that uses observational skills — through your sense of sound and touch — to record or describe sounds based on where they occur. This is a meditative exercise, focused on being in the present moment, as well as being aware of one’s self and the space in which one exists. It trains your brain to connect audio elements to the artist’s hand, and challenges the artist to not rely on visual input, or sight, while creating. Keep in mind that this project’s goal is not to make a finished work of art, but to shift your attention and experience your world in a unique way!

Supplies Needed:

You can any drawing materials for this activity: a pencil and paper, markers and a whiteboard, chalk on the sidewalk, crayons on cardboard, or even a stick and the ground. Choose whatever is convenient for you in the place where you choose to sit. If you’d like to add another element to the activity, you can use drawing materials (like colored pencils or oil pastels) with multiple colors, and record distinct sounds using different colors. (For example, you could use separate colors for high- and low-pitched sounds, or for manmade sounds and natural ones.)

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Choose a location with sounds that you find interesting, and sit down comfortably with your paper in your lap. (You’re going to close your eyes during the activity, so make sure it’s somewhere safe.)

2. Draw a dot in the center of your paper. This dot represents you, so that you can record the sounds that happen all around (in front of, behind, beside, and even above) you.

3. Set a timer so you can focus completely on listening and drawing, without worrying about how much time has passed. If you want, you can start with a short warm-up version of this drawing, and set your timer for just one minute. Then, once you feel comfortable with the process, set one for a longer period! (Try 3 or 5 minutes.)

4. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds that surround you for a few moments before you start to draw. Ask yourself: Where are the sounds coming from? How close or far away are they from you? Do they echo or repeat?

5. Once you feel like you have discovered all the sounds in the area, take another moment to just listen. What more can you hear?

6. Keep your eyes closed and experiment with ways you can make a mark on paper to describe a sound. Different sounds likely inspire different types of marks; perhaps the wind is a long, mostly straight line, while a chirping bird is a series of small marks that move around in different directions.

7. When the timer goes off, take a look at your drawing. Can you tell by looking at it where most of the sounds occurred?

8. When your first drawing is finished, you have two choices. You can keep making marks on it with your eyes open, turning it from an abstract composition into a drawing of something specific. Or you can start a new blind sound drawing, with a new timer, either in the same place or a different setting! It’s interesting to complete this activity in two different locations and then compare and contrast the two drawings.


  • Try assigning a color or type of mark to each sound you hear, rather than using the same mark and color for everything. For example, trees can be orange, wind can be blue, etc., or animals can be warm colors and objects can be cool colors.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed because you hear a lot of sounds, try to focus on ones that repeat, and then focus on the location of those sounds.
  • Breathe, take your time, and be bold and confident with mark making.
  • Don’t be afraid to “mess up” your drawing; this is a blind drawing activity, and there is no wrong way to do it!
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