My two most important factors in painting a carousel animal are:

  • Using the proper primer, and
  • Using the proper music.

The first, of course, is the foundation on which you will build your composition, and the second is for your state of mind.

Years ago a friend gave me an album of music entitled "Music to Paint By". It contained tunes for every color in the rainbow, from "Yellow Bird" to "Scarlet Ribbons", "Ruby" to "Green Eyes". There is "Mood Indigo" and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and of course, "Over the Rainbow".

From years of painting and reading about the life styles of other painters, I have found that your choice of background "ambiance" is as important as the your choice of colors and materials. Pin striping a carousel horse is impossible to do if your background music is punk rock, but a nice soothing melody will indeed help to make the paint flow smoothly.

When you are down to a deadline, as I am quite often, I pull out my favorite band organ tunes. There is nothing like a rousing Sousa march to really get the juices flowing. When the monotony of priming and sanding begin to overwhelm you, a selection of "In the Mood" or a good old-fashioned rock and roll will give your hand and heart a rhythm that will speed the task along. You will unconsciously begin to paint or sand to the beat of the music you select. If you're stripping paint, the William Tell Overture will make the sandpaper fly. The steady rhythm of a country music song provides a nice even stroke, my preference when applying primer or the final finish coat.

Themed variety tunes will help you with the struggles of creation. The beginnings of a zebra brought out "Chain Gang" by Sam Cook, Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock" and the official theme songs of the NFL (for all those striped shirted officials). A romantic Heyn horse was proceeded with a sound track of "Carousel" and a collection of Austrian waltzes.

Will music really help you paint? Yes! Just try painting while playing something you hate and you will soon discover the tenseness in your endeavors, your teeth will grind, and you will soon give up. Talk radio is nice for the monotony of some of your projects, but politics and paint don't mix well for me. Day time television and I also don't work well together unless it's an old western rerun with plenty of horses to check out for their coloring and distinctive markings. Have you noticed that all the bad guys ride bays or blacks?


A. Ruth & Sohn Band Organ
Spokane, Washington
My family has even become accustomed to my musical preference in relationship to the stage of the project to the point that when I pull out the traditional band organ music they know all is going well and the animal is almost finished. Another alternative is to paint with a group as there is nothing like the camaraderie of friends to help your project move along, to exchange ideas and techniques, or simply for the company while you paint away. As you make your list of supplies to begin your carousel painting project, don't forget to add your favorite music selections.

Sources for authentic band organ music are:

  • Carrousel Music, Box 231, Chambersburg, PA, 17201
  • Marion Roehl Recordings, 3533 Stratford, Vestal 5, N.Y., 13850
  • Suncoast Audio Visual Services, Dept.. NT, 589 Fifth Ave. SE, Largo, FL, 346541-2125



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Bette Largent is a professional carousel horse restoration artist from Washington State, and the author of Paint The Ponies, a guide for those who are interested in learning the art of painting carousel figures.

Click Here for information on ordering her book.


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