Refer to this video below for the artist's interpretation of their piece, or continue scrolling for a text version.
My piece is called “Synesthete,” as in someone with synesthesia. Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which a person’s brain associates one sense with another, meaning that the stimulation of one sense, such as sound, involuntarily activates another unrelated sense, like sight or color. There are many different forms of synesthesia, including grapheme-color type (the association of specific numbers and letters with certain colors) or chromesthesia (the perception of sounds as colors). Around 3-5% of the world’s population are estimated to be synesthetes, and there is some research indicating a genetic component to the condition.
In my piece, I am attempting to portray the mind of someone with synesthesia. I have drawn the basic form of a human head, open and “bursting” with colors and sensory experiences. In my drawing, I incorporate multiple different types of synesthesia in order to be representative of the complexity of the condition. It is commonly thought that synesthetes are often more artistic because their minds make so many different connections, so I have attempted to demonstrate this through creating a very chaotic and colorful piece.
I was inspired to create a piece on this topic because of my own synesthesia, which is the grapheme-color type. I knew that the piece had to be about something related to neuroscience and the brain, and I thought it would be most interesting and easiest to draw about a condition that I am familiar with. In fact, I tried to make many of the colored numbers in my drawing in the same color that my brain associates them with. However, I also tried to incorporate unfamiliar forms of synesthesia, including a music-color association that I do not experience. In this way, I think that the process of creating this piece gave me a better understanding of the complexity of the condition, and a greater appreciation for how miraculously the human brain can function.
I have used fine tip and brush tip pens to create the bold lines of my work, and all color is using oil-based color pencils. I chose this medium because it is what I am most familiar with, and gives me the largest range of possible colors to use. Synesthesia often occurs as a cross-wiring of one sense with the perception of color in the brain, so I tried to use as many different colors and hues as I could in my representation of the mind.
The creation of this piece occurred in three steps: creating the outline in first pencil then pen, base color, and then fine details and additional color layers. The piece took just over two months to make, with the color taking up most of the process. I found that one of my biggest challenges was finding the right balance of colors to use next to each other; the bolder elements in the piece come in different sizes, so I found it difficult to make sure that the different color tones were spread evenly across the canvas. Additionally, the fine details and small dots took quite a bit of meticulous work, which was at times tedious.
Overall, I am really happy with the final product. I think that the piece flows exactly in the way I intended, like a chaotic wave of thought bursting out of a human head. The color is almost entirely balanced, and the fine details are all neat and clear, although they could have been a bit more delicate.