Sensory Abstraction Exercises

Oct 26, 2020 at 10:27 am by Barbara Din

Sensory Abstraction Exercises

Synesthesia or synaesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

You probably heard of it before. But what if we recreate or emulate this phenomenon in order to make new artistic connections or discoveries?

If you're feeling uninspired, or want to try something different from what you're used to that you can later incorporate into your art habits, here are some ideas for sensory abstractions you can try.


Imagine you have to represent a feeling visually. Since emotions are already abstract, you won't have to translate a concrete image. What colors do anger incite? What kind of lines would bliss have? How textured would frustration be? Pick one and start trying. Just remember this: there is no right way to do this. It's an exercise and you can try what comes to you in the moment. You may even try the same emotion at different times and see how they differ.


In this case, it would be nice if we could avoid depicting the food responsible for the taste in an obvious way. Let's think more of how it feels to taste the flavor, instead of directly associating it with the real characteristics of the food. Sounds simple enough, but it can be a challenge. Challenges are good =)


This should be a little easier, although we can fall into the same trap as before: try not to depict sounds that are metallic with metallic visual characteristics. The idea here is to go beyond that. Also, give yourself time to experience the sounds before jumping into artistic action. Close your eyes and let them go through you for a while.



Again, we're talking abstract here, so no drawing of the Eiffel Tower. You have endless ways to interpret how a particular place feels to you without going for the landmarks. It could be a city, a country, or your grandma's house. Or the place you were at when you first fell in love. In this case you have many sensory characteristics you can draw from, so the results can be pretty rich.


Finally, a very interesting one. It could be someone you know deeply, or someone you never met. You choose. It could be someone you're fond of, or someone you antagonize with. Different choices will give you such different results… it might be fascinating. Of course, don't make portraits. That's not the point of this exercise. Just try and extract and translate what you think or feel about this person into abstract visual elements.

I hope you give some (hopefully all!) of these a try. It will not only give you a different perspective on how to think and represent subjects, but you'll also be able to dive into your own mind and emotions. That can only be good for an artist!



Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:
Barbara Din YouTube Channel
Barbara Din Instagram


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