A Painter’s Playlist

What I listen to while I work

A glimpse of my (very messy) work space. Not pictured: computer and speakers to the right, pumping out the jams.

Every artist of any kind that I’ve spoken to has their own rituals and processes for creation, but it seems like a pretty standard trope that artists (especially visual artists) will listen to SOMETHING while they work. I’m no exception. So here’s what I’ve been listening to (and liking) lately.


I almost exclusively listen to audiobooks for novels I’ve read before. Part of this is because I’m trying to reread books I really liked the first time through, and part of it is because it’s sort of a guarantee that I’m going to like what I’m listening to instead of losing interest. Within the last few months, I’ve listened to:

  • The Harry Potter series (a long-time favorite, and reader Jim Dale is marvelous)
  • The Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (the long-awaited [at least by me] fourth book, Lethal White, came out late last year)
  • The Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman (I just listened to the first one, Baltimore Blues, earlier this week, after finishing the series a couple years ago)


This one is going to be more of a true playlist. I don’t usually listen to full-length albums by individual artists (except when I’m checking out an album for the first time); I like to keep it mixed up. Right now I’m going back and forth mainly between my Hozier Pandora station and my Glass Animals station. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve given a “thumbs up” to lately (plus a few extras that I still love):

  • “Movement” and “Almost (Sweet Music),” both by Hozier*
  • “Champion” and “Hellfire” by Barns Courtney
  • “Bilgewater” by Brown Bird
  • “How You Like Me Now” by the Heavy* (ft. the Dap Kings)
  • “Be Mine” by Ofenbach
  • “Deadcrush” by Alt-J*
  • “Jungle Youth” and “Something to Believe In” by Young the Giant
  • “Seeing Stars” by Borns*
  • “Natural” by Imagine Dragons*
  • “My Type” by Saint Motel
  • “First” by Cold War Kids*
  • “High Hopes” by Panic at the Disco
  • “Walk” by Kwabs
  • “Cringe” by Matt Maeson

* Artists I would consider favorites/like multiple songs by

It’s pretty heavy on the indie/alternative this time around, though I’ve also been known to listen to some electroswing and Top 40/pop; maybe I’ll mention some of those next time around.

If you’re an artist/creative, what do you like to listen to while you work? Music? Audiobooks? Podcasts? Do you build playlists or let a service like Pandora give you something random? I especially like Pandora as a place to discover new music, though we have a couple alternative stations locally that do pretty well too.

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