Really it varies depending on my mood. If I've been super busy, I like to paint in silence; I find it very soothing. Also, it helps me to sort things out when I have a lot on my mind. Painting can be like a moving meditation - it takes just enough of my attention that I don't fixate on my thoughts, which means that I come to solutions more easily. (No overthinking!) Other times I listen to music. Usually jazz with no words. Bebop, preferably.
But my favorite thing to listen to when I paint is an audio book. I don't do it often, because just like when reading a good book, I like to get lost in it. I also like to get lost in my painting, so combine the two and I could be "gone" for the whole day - or night!
Right now I'm listening to Alice Walker's Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart. The book is about a woman's rich inner life and her spiritual journey. The writing is full of symbolism and metaphors and I'm finding it the perfect companion for the big triptych in my aspen tree series.
And yes, I believe the book does influence my painting. I love art influencing art! (Which is why I prefer jazz to other genres when painting.) These paintings might take an entirely different turn if I started listening to fluffy pop music while painting. Not necessarily bad, just different. As soon as I started painting while listening to this book, the paintings took a dark, mysterious turn. I love that.
The above painting is a detail view of one of the paintings in the triptych There are three layers of paint so far, with many more to go. It will be interesting to see where the book takes the paintings.
What do you listen to when you paint? Or cook, or do whatever creative thing you do?