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Am I Synesthetic? Are you?
Emerson, Lake & Palmer had a synth aesthetic, but that's not what I'm talking about.
Around the beginning of the year I became aware I’d been having the same idea, bubbling up again and again, just below the surface of conscious thought. I was thinking that 2023 would be the first year in a while that wasn’t just blue and white.
That’s nonsense, so I made an effort to think about my thinking. I’d long noticed that I have color associations with numbers, but I’d never really cataloged them, and sort of assumed they were fluid and ever-changing. But now I realized I had an unexpectedly firm opinion about the last four years, and they looked like this:
Thing is, I’m pretty sure if you’d asked me twenty years ago I would have told you twos are blue and threes are yellow. So how had I never codified this? And by codifying it, was I making it more real? This is what I worked out:
It feels good, seeing it in physical space like this. And ever since working it out, these associations have been much more front-of-mind. Which has led me to recognize that I have other associations I haven’t often thought about:
I think there’s a certain kind of person who’s like a hypochondriac, but for ideas. Instead of hearing about an ailment and immediately believing they have it, this kind of person learns about existentialism in the 12th grade and declares that they, themselves, are an existentialist. They learn about Occam’s Razor and subsequently talk WAY TOO MUCH about Occam’s Razor. And upon learning about synesthesia, they of course must be a synesthete.
I worry I am this kind of person. So I’ve avoided learning too much about synesthesia, because I could tell how enchanted I was by it.
Synesthesia is, incidentally, when you experience one of your senses through another. The sound of a trumpet makes you think of orange. Or perhaps it makes you literally see an orange shape. I don’t have that kind of experience. Associating letters or numbers with colors is called grapheme-color synesthesia, and apparently some people question whether it really is synesthesia—it doesn’t actually involve two senses, after all. Another contested form is sensing the months of the year as having locations in space. I do that, too.
I used to wonder if some oft-repeated Sesame Street animation cemented certain number-colors in my mind. But there’s no way Sesame Street got me associating these colors with the days of the week:
That’s just bad design.
Anyway, I am curious how many of you experience the same thing.
A Little Like Waking World Tour!*
*The part of the world that is the continental United States†
†West of the Mississippi
I am thrilled to announce I’m going on tour in August for my upcoming illustrated YA novel, A Little Like Waking. I’ll talk more about the book next time (it comes out August 1st) but I hope you can come say hi if I’m coming to a town near you.
Here are some rendering tests I did recently of a character from a picture book I’m working on:
And, once again, here are the last three files I opened in Photoshop, presented without context:
As ever, thank you for reading. I’d appreciate it if you felt like recommending this newsletter to a friend.
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