Painting your song

by Sigourney Young

Art is the perfect way to express the experience of synesthesia. Synesthesia is such a unique and unusual experience that it can be hard to describe in words. For me, painting quickly became the best expression of my synesthesia experience. When I found out that hearing colours wasn’t the norm, I was baffled! I didn’t know how to talk about what I saw when a song played and showing my family and friends instead was a life saver.

This month I’m discussing the process of creating synesthesia art. So far we’ve talked about getting started with a sketch of the song. Painting the piece is my next step and this is where the music really comes to life!

Why watercolour is the perfect expression of music

I’ve always loved watercolour. My grandfather was an artist and while he used a variety of mediums, I always associate his work with beautiful watercolours. Since I was a child I’ve been drawn to the simplicity and power of watercolour and it felt natural that my work would evolve to focus so strongly on the medium.

Watercolour is also the medium that most captures my synesthesia experience. As I listen to each sound its colour appears in my mind’s eye as a soft, 3D shape. It appears to me like a flow of water through my mind with the colours permeating through the shape, sometimes with different colours on the outside and the inside, sometimes as bubbles and sometimes as rivers of colour.

Water is the closest texture to what I see in my mind, and when I paint I want to bring my collector as close to my synesthesia experience as I can. Because the flow of watercolour is so representative of my experience It makes it hard to find a more fitting medium for creating my art!

Preparing to paint

When beginning each painting I first set up my studio with everything I need. I make sure my palette is full, my brushes are clean and that fresh water fills my many pots and jars. I also cut up paper towel sections that I use to control the flow of the water as I paint. Preparing these in advance means I use less paper through the process and that I can collect them as snapshots of each painting. I have a bag of paper squares and am collecting them for an art piece of their own one day.

I hand-cut each piece of 350gsm watercolour paper and start by wetting and drying the sheet destined for the painting. This step allows the water to flow more easily across the page and also sets a time limit to the process! Once the paper is wet the painting needs to be started straight away to take advantage of the moisture and to stop the paper warping.

Getting into the flow

Working with watercolours requires an intense focus. In my pieces, I allow the colours to flow into each other and that means controlling the movement of the colours as they flow together through the piece. Lose control, and you end up with with a mixed mess; over control, and you lose the flow of the music! Finding the perfect balance allows the colours to be guided as if flowing through the music, and ensures sections don’t dry before they are feathered with other colours.

After the body of the painting is complete details are added. Colour transitions are refined and the use of shades and highlights are added to complete the piece. After that, I get to wait and see what magic details will appear as the paint dries.

Painting time in the studio flies by and is, of course, one of my favourite times in the studio. Once the piece is dry it’s signed and packed away safely.

The final step is creating the certificate of authenticity and I’ll be sharing this last step of my process next week!

Have you ever worked with watercolour? Let me know your experience below!

Sigourney xo

February 11, 2019


I’m Sigourney

I’m a synesthesia artist that will be forever found with paint on my nose, dancing around the studio in my yoga pants. I love travel, gluten-free brownies and working from the home studio I share with my husband. My goal? To bring you into the world of synesthesia and to create a space online that celebrates the colour and meaning of music.

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