“What is synesthesia?”, you may be wondering. Synesthesia is something that you may have and not even realize it! I know that I didn’t realize that there was a name for it until I was an adult.
What is Synesthesia?
According to The University of Washington, synesthesia “is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight”.
For example, as a synesthete (someone who has synesthesia), I perceive letters, words, and names as being certain colors. For example, I perceive (but don’t actually see) my last name as being green and the letter A as being red. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t realize that what I experienced had a name. For me, synesthesia was just something I didn’t give a second thought about until I was either older or I just so happened stumbled across information regarding it.
Synesthesia is also something that is associated with creative people, which is why I wrote this post. In fact, I did a paper last semester in my Modernist Art class about synesthesia and its influence on art and artists. In it, I also mentioned how there have been studies done to see whether there is a connection between creativity and synesthesia.
According to a 2006 research done by the University College London in London, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no, with no direct link between creativity and synesthesia. Despite this, earlier studies have shown that there is a link between the two. What is known, however, is that synesthestes are more likely to engage in the arts.
Types of Synesthesia
There are different types of synesthesia. The most common type (which I have) is called grapheme-color synesthesia and is when someone perceives numbers or words as being certain colors. This can vary from individual to individual, with one synesthete seeing the number nine as being blue while another sees nine as being green. Me personally, I see the number nine as being yellow.
Sound-to-color synesthesia, also known as chromethesia, is similar to grapheme-color synesthesia except a person associates certain sounds with a colored shape. The sound of a trumpet can be perceived as being a blue triangle or a person thinks of the color yellow circle whenever they hear a lawnmower.
Painting by Melissa McCracken, who has chromethesia
Another form of synesthesia is called number form synesthesia. According to SynesthesiaTest.org, a person with this type of synesthesia will see a number map when they think of numbers.
Personification, also known as ordinal-linguistic personification (OLP), is a form of synesthesia where the synesthete associates things like letters, months, or numbers with different personalities, according to SynesthesiaTest.org. To a synesthete with this type of synesthesia, the number 6 may be a nice number while the color green is stand-offish.
There is also lexical-gustatory, which is a form of synesthesia that makes the synesthete taste certain things when they hear a certain word. For example, a person with these rare form of synesthesia might taste pork chops when they hear a bell ring.
Finally, there is spatial sequence synesthesia where the synesthete has synesthesia that takes form spatially. For example, the month September may be to the left of the person or Saturday is 20 feet above them.
Famous People with Synesthesia
The top four I found out about while doing a paper for a class I took last semester, while the rest are from Mental Floss, though van Gogh was also on Mental Floss’s list.
- Wassily (sometimes spelled Vasily) Kandinsky, artist
- David Hockney, artist
- Vincent van Gogh, artist
- Vladmir Nabokov, author
- Tori Amos, singer
- Geoffrey Rush, actor
- Duke Ellington, musician
- Billy Joel, musician
- Dev Hynes, singer and composer
- Arthur Rimbaud, poet
- Patrick Stump, musician
- Pharrell Williams, musician and singer
- Franz Liszt, pianist and composer
- Charli XCX, singer
Do You Have Synesthesia?
If the above makes you think that you have synesthesia, I would recommend taking the test below to be sure:
You can also look at this page for symptoms of synesthesia: https://www.synesthesiatest.or…
DaySyn is also another site I recommend checking out.
Does the word tree make you think of the color pink?
What about numbers? Is 7 purple like in this picture?
Using Synesthesia To Inspire You To Create
If you have synesthesia, you can use it to help you create art. For example, instead of making things exactly as they are in reality, create art based on your synesthetic perception of things. Paint a blue cupcake if cupcakes make you think of the color blue. If a flute makes you think of a purple circle then paint it as such.
Taking that same idea, if you want, you can take pieces of wood, shaping and painting them to be what you perceive certain musical instruments to be. After shaping and painting all your pieces, glue them together to make an abstract wood collage.
Here is an example of a wood collage I found on Pinterest
Yet another wood collage I found on Pinterest.
You can also make a sculpture combining an object and your synesthetic perception of it. For something, if seeing pancakes make you hear a phone ring, make a sculpture combining the two.
Just think about what type(s) of synesthesia you have and your art form to help you come up with something. It might take a while depending on your chosen art and the type of synesthesia you have but I’m sure you can come up with something sooner or later! You can also look up artists who use their synesthesia to create art like Melissa McCracken, who paints music according to My Modern Met. Below are some of her works:
If you can’t come up with any ideas and you need help about how to use your synesthesia to create art, just ask me and I’ll try to help!