Frye Families: Drawing from Music

This activity is developed for children ages 3 and older. Download and print this guide for easy reference.


There are many forms of art ranging from painting and sculpture to literature and music. Sometimes, these different art forms come together. In Christina Quarles’s work, we see how her drawings and the titles of her paintings are inspired by song lyrics. Explore more of her drawings in the exhibition Christina Quarles, on view at the Frye Art Museum through June 5, 2022.

When looking at Quarles’s work, you may notice abstract elements. Abstract art involves changed or simplified versions of real people, places, or objects, often portraying what an artist feels or thinks rather than what they see. For reference, representational art is the realistic portrayal of people, places, or objects.

Christina Quarles. I Don’t Wanna, Be Funny Anymore, 2019

Christina Quarles. I Don’t Wanna, Be Funny Anymore, 2019. Ink on paper. 15 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 1 1/2 in. Skarstedt, New York. © Christina Quarles. Courtesy of the artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Pilar Corrias, London

Take a moment to look closely at this artwork.

  • What do you notice?

  • See if you can spot all the figures in this drawing. How would you describe them?

  • How does this artwork make you feel? What does this drawing remind you of? 

  • What ideas or emotions might the artist be trying to express with this artwork? What details in the image do you see that make you say that? 

  • Find the text in this artwork and take a close look. How does the text affect the meaning of the artwork? In particular, how does the placement of the text affect the meaning of the artwork?

    • Note: In this artwork, Quarles uses a version of the lyrics from the songs “Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead and “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore” by Lucy Dacus. Quarles intentionally changed the grammar and spelling of the lyrics in the composition (the placement or arrangement of visual elements).


Inspired by Quarles’s work? Create your own drawing based on a song you like!

For more inspiration, read about Quarles’s musical influences in a playlist she shared for the exhibition.


You will need:

  • Any kind of paper

  • Pencil

  • Pen or markers (optional)

  • Access to a music streaming website, service, or device (optional)


  1. Find a song you like. If you are able to play it on a music streaming website, service, or device, close your eyes as you are listening to it. Think about how the song makes you feel and what the music makes you think of.

  2. Pick out lyrics that you think would be interesting to turn into a drawing. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be lyrics that describe a person, place, or thing; maybe it describes a feeling or an idea.

  3. On a piece of paper, use a pencil to sketch some of your ideas on how to illustrate the lyrics. Questions to consider:

    • What kinds of images can you see when you hear these lyrics?

    • How do you feel when you hear this song? What kinds of lines, shapes, or colors might you use to express how you feel?

    • If the lyrics are describing a feeling or an idea, what kinds of lines, shapes, or colors might you use to express them?

    • If the song is telling a story, what are some representational elements you might use to illustrate it?

  4. Once you have an idea of what you’d like to draw, start working on your composition on a fresh sheet of paper. Be sure to think about where you’d like to include the lyrics in the drawing.

  5. As you work on your drawing, continue working in pencil. When you feel the drawing is complete, you can decide if you’d like to go over the details with a pen or marker.

Drawing inspired by the song “Magic” by Pilot.

Drawing inspired by the song “Magic” by Pilot.


Let’s take a closer look at your drawing.

  • Is your drawing representational or abstract?

  • What kinds of lines did you use? Straight, curvy, or wavy lines? Do these lines represent emotions? If yes, how do these lines express that?

  • How did you incorporate the song’s lyrics? Did you change the grammar or spelling of the words?

  • Did the drawing turn out the way you were expecting? What surprised you?

We’d love to see how your drawing turns out! Please share a photo of it on social media using the hashtag #FryefromHome.



Yazmin Cojulun
Education Assistant