Melissa Santamaría uses synaesthesia to illustrate psychedelic visuals for musicians

Melissa Santamaría uses synaesthesia to illustrate psychedelic visuals for musicians

As you’ll see from her portfolio, everything is consistent in its psychedelic tones, dynamism and synchronicity with the music it’s played alongside. The success of her pieces is down to both her technical skill and her ear for the music. It allows her to creatively and enjoyably follow a beat, before working up the best-suited visuals in her mind. It’s a synaesthesic experience. “I close my eyes and imagine the colours the song makes me feel, the rhythm translates into movement, and the texture into other musical components which are like the layers or the blending modes I use,” she explains. “Then all of that detail becomes a colourful visual or an illustration.” When doing so, she’ll set herself certain parameters that she can play with – a movement, colour or texture, for example. But whatever it is, she always seeks to create harmony.

Take Sufjan Steven’s Convocations album as an example. A special one for Melissa, it was her first big project and one that made her trust herself as a creative. The album was made during the pandemic and features five volumes, each representing a different stage of grief. “It was something that came from a very vulnerable place and turning those feelings into a visual was beautiful,” she says. The process kicked off with a dive into each emotion, followed by the colour palettes. The Meditation volume, for instance, uses green and orange; the Lamentation volume is presented in colder, darker tones; while Celebration was much brighter. “I played with movement, colour and texture throughout the songs, creating visual atmospheres for each of the volumes.”

Melissa doesn’t shy away from revealing her processes, because ultimately, she wants to connect with her audience and allow a visual portal into music, her mind and her own portfolio. It’s not that easy to create a piece of art like Melissa’s, and many wrongly perceive it to be a simplistic or quick process. “I’m always uploading different things on my Instagram feed, but I do like to emphasise that it was patience that got me where I am right now,” she says. “To be patient with your process and with you is essential. It took me almost eight years to know what I wanted to express through my art, maybe you’re the lucky one and you’ll find your way in a month. But patience and being consistent helped me a lot.”

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