Hello Atelier 011

Melissa McCracken

April 27, 2017

Melissa McCracken, an artist and synesthete who paints music as it appears to her through a neurological phenomenon, discusses her process and technique.

Hello Atelier 011

Melissa McCracken

I first learned about this week’s guest, Melissa McCracken, through my friend Kristin. Kristin and I have many things in common: we both love fabric and sewing, the movie Labyrinth and we like similar music – in particular, the bands Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire and Wilco. When Kristin showed me Melissa’s painting of Wilco’s “Hummingbird”, I was intrigued. Who was painting these gorgeous visual representations of songs?

Preparing to interview Melissa meant learning more about synesthesia, which is a fascinating neurological phenomenon. As someone who loves to live in color, I found myself envying the synesthete world in which music, letters, numbers and even memories are enriched with color. Not all synesthetes are affected by it the same way, which makes it even more fascinating.

It’s interesting to look at lists of famous musical synesthetes and wonder how the condition affected their craft. Did Duke Ellington or Franz Liszt compose by color? What about those in the visual arts? David Hockney apparently has synesthesia but it doesn’t affect most of his paintings. However, it is said that it does affect his work when he is designing stage sets for the ballet or opera. Melissa is interesting in that she is trying to share what she experiences – grabbing that fleeting vision and commit it to canvas. Through her work, we non-synesthetes finally get a taste of a fuller musical experience.

What’s happening in Melissa’s world:


  1. Dear Melissa McCraken

    My name is Gaby Rodríguez. I work at Santillana S.A. We write school books for Ecuador, South America.

    At the moment I am writing an Art school book for ecuadorian children of 9 years old. In one chapter we are writing about synesthesian artists. We would love to use a picture of one of your works. Would you please tell us what can we do in order to use one of them?

    Thank you very much

    1. 83729567484 says:

      Hi Gaby!

      I would suggest emailing Melissa directly, her email is studio@melissasmccracken.com. She isn’t actually part of Hello Atelier, we just interviewed her, but I’m sure if you email her, she would be happy to help you out. Thanks so much!


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