Sketching synesthesia art

by Sigourney Young

Synesthesia is the experience of crossed senses and comes in many different forms. For me, my synesthesia means that I experience music and sounds as colour. Every sound has a unique colour and texture that appears in my mind’s eye as I listen. In my studio, I turn people’s favourite songs into abstract watercolours. You might imagine the music blaring and the paints flying. This of course is a little true, but there’s also a magic recipe for creating the most beautiful pieces possible.

This month I’ll be focusing on the process of creating a synesthesia artwork and in order to show you a little glimpse of the process, I am starting with step one, sketching!

With each piece, I strive to fully realise the music in colour and over the years I’ve learned more about my synesthesia, meaing my paintings have become more naunced and detailed.  Every song has a huge variety of colours and I want to capture every single one. To make sure they don’t get missed, I start with a sketch of the music.

Starting a synesthesia painting

The first step to creating my synesthesia art involves a pen and paper. I note down the name of the song and artist, the date and size of the piece, then turn up the music and start sketching. I sketch in line with the colour and shape of the music and have notebooks full of songs dating back to 2014. I start my sketch, like my paintings, on the top left and work my way through the piece making colour blocks and notes across the different sections.

My notes include the colours at each section as well as the timestamp of the colour appearing in the music. Sometimes they also include the instrument, but only if it’s something more unusual. For most songs, the time and colour note means that I’ll be able to listen back and pick up that exact colour to identify in more detail in the certificate of authenticity, which I create after the painting is finished.

Why sketching is important

Sketching each song helps me to create a visual record of each painting and also guides the creation of my palette for the song. When the studio gets busy, listening to so many songs can get a little overwhelming. Sketching the piece before I start helps me stay focused on the colours of the song, and means that I can pause the music and continue with my painting when the sounds get too much, or when I need to focus on more technical aspects of the flow of the paints and texture of the piece.

Before I started sketching pieces years ago, each painting was only a snapshot of the whole song. By adding sketches into the process, I can go deeper into the colours of the song and create a more accurate representation of my experience.

Do you like to sketch? I love the quick movement of my pen as the music speeds along and love getting caught up in the colours.

Read about the next step of my process – painting – here!

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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