Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part One

Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part One

Our February 13th “Color Muze” segment on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, focused on the fascinating concept and phenomenon of “Synesthesia”, or “Unity of the Senses. I learned about Synesthesia through my color seminars at the IACC-NA (The International Association of Colour Consultants and Designers North America) from Mr. Frank Mahnke, President of the  IACC-NA and the Director of the IACC Education/Accreditation Programs conducted worldwide. Mr. Mahnke lectures on the  psycho-physiological effects of color, light and the human reaction to the built environment, as well as the role of color as information and communication in the field of marketing.

In my first Seminar with the IACC-NA, I learned about how colors (the visual) can provoke associations with our other senses, (smell, touch/the tactile, hearing and taste), as well as affect our perception of weight, volume, size and texture.  In the words of Mr. Mahnke , “It seems that the centers for processing sensory information are linked with each other, leading to crosstalk between the senses.” If this is true, and it would seem from the evidence of our senses that it is, then the concept of Synesthesia is an important consideration in any and every color decision we make, with potentially profound consequences emotionally, physically, aesthetically, and even spiritually!

Let’s look at some examples.

Considering Temperature: Painter, designer, teacher, writer and theorist Johannes Itten wrote about experiments that supported the thesis that we can feel a 5-7 degree difference in temperature in rooms painted blue-green, and red-orange.  When we consider the associations with blue-green (water, coolness), and red-orange (fire, heat) this would seem to make sense!  What experiences have YOU had temperature-wise, being surrounded by architectural color?  Does blue/green always feel cooler, and red/orange warmer to you?  Does it depend on the value, saturation, intensity, tone and context of the color?  And what about the color of that color- its hue?

What about Volume? We can see through experience, that lighter, cooler  colors seem to recede, thus making a room feel larger,  (giving it more “room”) while warmer, more saturated, and darker colors seem to advance, and take up more space in a room, thus making it appear smaller.  Have YOU had this experience? As a color designer, have you used these principles?

Can color affect our perception of weight and size? Darker, warmer and more saturated colors tend to seem heavier, and the areas they cover seem to be larger, while paler, cooler and more pastel colors seem lighter, and the areas they cover, smaller.  Thus a darker, warmer, and more saturated color will seem to bring a ceiling “down”, and the opposite for  a paler, cooler and more pastel color.  Can YOU see this effect in these two ceiling areas?  The effect may be complicated by the fact that the area surrounding both is in the hue range of cream to white!


The above are just a few of the infinite examples of “sensory crosstalk”, or Synesthesia, which I suspect pervades our daily lives far more than we are conscious of.

In a subsequent post, I will explore Synesthesia in terms of our five senses: the visual effect of color as regards to our sense of hearing, touch, taste and smell.  In other words, What scent does the color lime green conjure up?  What flavor would rosebud pink be? Does cobalt blue “feel” rough or smooth?  These are illuminating exercises to try for ourselves, and I am going to discuss just how to do that.

As an example, during her interview,  I queried special guest Rebecca E. Parsons (co-host and creator of Artistically Speaking Talk Show) about her chosen Word for 2011: SOAR.

“What color would you assign to this word, and the meaning it has for you at this time?” I asked her.

“Aqua” she replied, without missing a beat.  This only makes sense.  Rebecca lives in Florida, on island, near the water, and walks on the beach nearly every early morning.  The Aqua color of sea-blue water  which reflects the sky, with its associations of both airiness / expansion, and sublimity / depth would make it the perfect expression of Rebecca’s intention to  dive into her dreams, and Soar with them, making her cre8tive life vision a reality.

You can hear my Muze with Rebecca, as well as her complete extraordinary and  inspirational  interview with co-host Lyna Farkas on Artistically Speaking Talk Show on your computer anytime you wish.  I hope you will tune in to it, as well to Artissima, Blog of ArtiFactory Studio, for Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part Two, and join our Color Full exploration.

What a luscious, luminous world we have as finishers, decorative painters, muralists, artists, artisans and humans, to explore! Please join our Color Muze on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, and Cre8tive Compass Magazine, “where we honor your passion, and your vision, in this community we are co-creating”

Have YOU had an experience with Synesthesia lately?

If you feel so inspired, share YOUR sense and sensibility with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all experiencing this thing called Life, together.



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Ceilings: No Limits for 2011!

Ceilings:  No Limits for 2011!

As we  enter the new year, let’s take a minute to consider not limitations, but possibilities!

The ceiling, or  “fifth wall”,  imposes limitations of height, size and shape upon the room it covers.  A defining factor of any interior space, the color and treatment of a room’s ceiling can profoundly affect its ambiance.

Whether you wish to warm up or cool down your interior spaces this year, create more spaciousness or intimacy, or add formality or whimsy, try taking a  fresh look at your ceilings, and pondering their creative  potential.   Consider the ceiling a blank canvass with unlimited possibilities.  After all, the ceiling is our interior sky…and you know the old adage…”the sky’s the limit!”

Here are a few ideas to get you going…

Some folks like it hot…hot color, that is.  Like washes of strong hues on all the walls , and gradated color glazed on the stairway ceiling to express the warmth of a luminous sunset!

The gradated sunset colors overhead flow from yellow to orange to red to violet, as we climb the stairs and turn left into the second floor hallway.  Adjacent is a yellow and black deco bathroom, with a  glazed ceiling that matches the walls.

The theme of sunset also inspired this ceiling treatment.  The young girl who lives here requested a purple sunset cloud and sky treatment.   Five glazes in hues of blue, purple, plum, pink and fuchsia are blended in several layers over a ceiling surface  that curves down to meet the wall’s crown molding.

This kitchen tray ceiling seems made for a multi-color glaze treatment that enhances and accentuates it, adds warmth, depth and interest, and reflects the copper accents throughout the room. The folks  who cook here also appreciate the appetite-stimulating effect of the treatment’s tones of coppery-orange.

Baths and powder rooms are ideal for imaginative, mood-setting ceiling treatments.  The only rules: prepare the surface to be treated properly, and protect it with the appropriate varnish upon completion.  On the recessed ceiling of this bath, blue and pearl glazes are blended together to create a dreamy evening sky punctuated by stenciled silver stars.

The light fixture was the inspiration for the ceiling design in this colorful entry.  The stencil  based on it is set off by sponged and stippled glazes which wrap the entire room.  Mysterious decorative shadows are cast by the light shining through the ornate fixture, adding to the effect!

How about a little gleam and glimmer?  Three successive applications of gold and silver glazes lend depth, shimmer and texture to the entry ceiling of this designer showcase home.  The treatment adds elegance and glamor, and doesn’t compete with the light fixture.

This octagonal domed breakfast room is treated to successive applications of custom metallic gold and silver glazes which  create an effect of both subtlety and richness. If metallic finishes are  applied with a light touch in the right room, they add a bit of magic, and don’t overwhelm the space.

In another domed breakfast room,  the ceiling’s architectural details  are brought out by the application of three soft-colored glazes, applied and blended with sea sponges.  The treatment also warms up this fanciful room, one of many jewels in a magnificent Spanish Revival home.

Two young brothers inhabit this room where rockets zoom, and stars and planets glow from the ceiling above.  Two glaze colors are color washed over the ceiling’s surface, and custom stencils based on the boy’s bedding design are used create a fantasy tableau of outer space.

Have you been moved to create a fun and fabulous ceiling treatment, color choice, texture or application? If you feel so inspired, share it with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all in this thing called Life, together.

All the best for 2011!