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Make an Abstract Drawing

Create your own abstract works of art inspired by the sounds of Meet the Instruments with this activity from the Walker Art Center, developed for our Meet the Instruments Young People’s Concert Experience.


Musicians and artists use the tools available to them to express their ideas, feelings and stories. Musicians choose different instruments to create different sounds and moods, while artists use color, line, shapes and textures to express themselves. In this activity, we will explore two families of instruments used by the Minnesota Orchestra: wind instruments and brass instruments. Then we’ll create our own abstract artwork inspired by the sounds we hear. While we listen to the orchestra play, we’ll use colors, lines and shapes to think about what makes different kinds of instruments special and unique! It will take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete this activity.

Connect with Art at the Walker

Look at the painting Players, Shadows, Figments and Forms by the artist Caroline Kent from the Walker Art Center’s collection.

What do you see? What does this painting remind you of? How do you feel when you look at it?

Caroline Kent’s painting is an example of abstract art. In abstract artworks, artists use lines, colors, shapes and textures to express themselves. Abstract artworks don’t resemble real life, but sometimes abstract art can make us feel a certain way or remind us of something.

Artists often draw inspiration from their own lives and experiences. Caroline Kent feels inspired by language, and we are going to create our own artwork inspired by sound! Imagine each shape in Caroline Kent’s painting could make a sound. What do you think each shape would sound like? What would all the shapes sound like together?


Now we’re going to create our own abstract artwork inspired by the sounds of the Minnesota Orchestra. We’ll listen to music while we work to help guide our creations!


  • Paper
  • Coloring implements (markers, crayons, paint, whatever you have handy)

Project Set-up

  • Find a clear space on a table or the floor where you can work. If you are using paint, you may want to wear an apron to protect your clothes.
  • Remember to clean up your workspace and wash your hands after you finish!

Step 1

Start by listening to the wind instruments perform Serenade No. 12 in C minor. What color does this music remind you of?

Choose one color that you will use for the wind instruments.

Step 2

While you listen, respond to the music by creating lines and shapes on your paper. The lines can be curvy, straight, jagged—any style that you want but they should be inspired by the music you’re hearing! Keep going until the music ends.

Step 3

Next, listen to the brass instruments perform Four Portraits.

Choose a new color to use for this new family of instruments.

Respond to the music by creating lines and shapes on the same piece of paper. Try overlapping your new lines and shapes with the ones you created earlier! Keep working until the music ends.

Keep Exploring:

Look at the drawing you’ve made. Choose 1 word to describe it.

  • How did you decide which color to choose for each song?
  • How did you decide what lines and shapes to create? Were your drawings different for each song? How so?
  • What did you notice about the different kinds of instruments as you were drawing? How are wind and brass instruments different? How are they similar?
  • If you like, continue to listen to different kinds of music and add new colors or textures based on the instruments you hear. Try drawing along to your favorite song!

About the Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center and museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Focusing on the visual, performing and media arts of our time, the Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection and preservation of art. Walker programs examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures and communities. The Walker's Department of Public Engagement, Learning and Impact serves upwards of 120,000 individuals per year at the museum, in schools, and in community-based settings through lectures, talks, workshops, tours, and participatory events designed to expand our understanding of art and life. Whether you’re a family in search of some art-making activities, a teen looking for a dance party, or a life-long art buff searching for inspiration, there is always something happening here.