Meet The Artist Who Has Battled His Whole Life Hearing Colors

See that painting up there? Most people would tell you that they can see a messy splatter of blues, pinks, yellows, purples; however, a small portion of the Earth’s population would say that the yellow smells like tea or the blues sound like yesterday morning. Those individuals would have what is known as synesthesia—a neurological phenomenon that causes an involuntary stimulation of one sensory pathway via another.

This condition is highly romanticized in pop culture as a gift bestowed upon only the most talented individuals, which includes 21-year-old Jack Coulter. A Northern Irish abstract artist born in 1994, Coulter has been living with chromesthesia—a type of synesthesia that connects sounds with color—his whole life. In an interview with Dazed, Coulter describes what his daily life his like:

“I used to think I was dreaming. Even something like staring at the sky was a fluorescent experience.”

Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Not necessarily. Coulter disclosed to Dazed that he thought of himself as an outsider many times; he was afraid to speak to anyone about his condition because he feared that people would consider him to have some strange problem, and he did not want that kind of attention. During his youth, Coulter was very reserved and kept to himself because of his chromesthesia.

“I rarely spoke as a child. I was painfully shy. I was so quiet that trying to explain a sensory, cognitive neurological phenomenon seemed like a terrifying prospect.”

Since then, Coulter has found painting to be a therapeutic method of coping with chromesthesia, and his artwork has had major influences on many people’s lives. A girl told him that his artwork stopped her from committing suicide, which moved him to tears. Another person got a tattoo of one of his paintings, stating that she was absolutely sure she wanted it to be permanently part of her body.

Visit the Dazed website to read about Coulter’s full story of life in color.