Red and Yellow and Pink and Green: Creating with Synesthesia

I was recording a podcast recently and I was asked to explain what my creative process is like. If I’m totally honest my process involves a lot of staring out my window, lying on my floor annoying my dog and pretending my pencils are drumsticks. I miss out those parts like I think they are some kind of bad habit. But whenever I get asked this question I always say I have to have music playing.

It goes on before I even start working and it’s so normal to the process now that I don’t think I can actually work without it. It feels like I’ve forgotten something or something is missing, like I’ve forgotten a tool.

It’s partly because my attention gets caught up in the music and the working that I’m almost totally occupied enough to not leave my seat for a while. I’ve found this really works and makes me more productive for longer periods of time. 


But before I even knew it was a phenomenon, and that there was even a word for it, I’ve had Synesthesia. Synesthesia is when a persons senses are joined, or linked. For me all numbers and letters are involuntary associated with a colour. I’ve learnt that this is called Grapheme-color synaesthesia and is the most common. I also see musical notes in colours, or at least I associate music with particular colours – again involuntary. But with sounds it’s less obvious. I have a definite connection with letters and numbers: 1 is blue, 2 is orange, 3 is yellow, 4 is green – dark green.

With music it is more fluid: colours and shapes sort of present themselves like they’ve built up. An individual noise doesn’t always strongly connect with a colour or form.


So this is why, I think, music has become so integral to my process. I can listen to any type of music and it won’t cloud my work in any way. Just as I can look at the number 1 in the colour red and still associate in my head as blue. But my brain is thinking ‘pink and now yellow is coming in, there’s sprinkle of blue’ while I’m working. It will just be happening almost in the background.

It’s a crazy example of how our brains work and, for me at least, gives an insight into how much power our minds and body have. Like we still have a lot to look at and discover when it comes to what the hell is going on in there.

A lot of creative people have this phenomenon – we’re synesthetes and we’re getting jackets. I wanted to put together a few pieces that bring out similar colours for me and create a piece with the colours I was associating. This turned into two because I went off on one. 

Try listening in to both playlists. There are lyrics in some, so if it's easier try listening to just the instrumentals. Let me know what happens, do you see any colours? 

Come back on 27th April where I’ll share with you the pieces and colours I’ve created.

I’ll be in New York next week and so I’ll be quiet for a little while. I will still be sharing my adventures on instagram

Hannah LewisComment