Curious what aphantasia means? Ask questions, share perspectives. Connect with many minds.
I stumbled across a youtube video on Aphantasia only 3 days ago.
I had no idea that my experience was different than other people, and I’m just shy of 40.
Learning about this has given me a better understand of myself and I wish I had know about it earlier.
Discovering that your imagination works differently than most other people; That your inner world of imaginative experiences is not, in fact, the norm; can come as a bit of a shock!
When you experience hyperphantasia, or extremely vivid sensory imagination across all or most of your senses, it’s all too easy to go about regular life thinking and believing that everyone imagines the same. When in fact, we all imagine differently.
Are you just realizing you have hyperphantasia? Did some small part of you intuitively know, think or question your experience might be different than others growing up? When did this occur? Where were you? Who were you with? What was your initial reaction? How has your thinking changed or evolved since the discovery?
Share you discovery story with hyperphantasia below.
I think I have aphantasia. However I do have really vivid dreams with clear ability to see. As I wake this fades to “black”. When I’m awake I cannot visualize anything in my minds eye. Anybody else have this?
I am being treated for severe refractory depression and the next step will be the application of ketamine and/or electroconvulsive therapy. I also have aphantasia, and I would like to know if there are any reports on any effects of these treatments on aphantasia, or if any of you have had this experience. Thank you very much!
Hello, my name is Willow, I’m in my thirties and just yesterday I stumbled across an article about aphantasia, I have never heard of it before. Since everything written in the article sounded quite familiar, I decided to take the test on this site here.
But I just don’t get it, wether it’s asking to imagine people or sceneries, I know what everything looks like, but I don’t know what to expect or better said, what the “normal” way to visualize those things is.
Like I said, I know what the people look like, I can perfectly fine describe the supermarket I’m always buying groceries from in detail but there’s absolutely no image popping up.
Now I’m wondering, how is it supposed to be? Are people really able to close their eyes and see people as if their looking at a photo? Like really “seeing” the face and everything?
Or is it like me, just knowing what they look like as if they are looking at a photo?
This is really confusing me, I just can’t imagine there are people who can see with their eyes closed…
My name is Kait Ritter, I’m currently a director in animation working at Disney TVA. Before that, I was a storyboard artist, and before that I was a student of animation.
My question is: for those who are artistic professionals, how did Aphantasia affect your journey into your field? How does it affect your daily tasks as an artist? How do you feel as someone who cannot visualize working amongst other creatives who can? Are there any pros to being an artist with Aphantasia that you can identify?
More about me/ my experiences below:
I am brand new to this site and fairly new to even knowing Aphantasia was a condition one could have! Anthony Padilla’s YouTube video was actually what gave me a name to call my condition by…I’m not on Twitter anymore but, previously, I had at least seen that dreaded apple visualization scale before…and witnessed the (slightly hilarious) debate around it. I’m really thrilled spaces like this exist because I’m so curious about this condition- specifically how it has affected other artists.
Upon my recent discovery of Aphantasia, I was in a bit of an emotional spiral learning that all of my closest friends and family (many of whom are also artists) are able to recall memories or conjure visions clear as a cinematic picture in their minds, while I am left in the dark. I see nothing! Total blackness. But then I learned about Glen Keane and other animation figureheads also having the condition.
Knowing that Glen Keane, one of the greatest living animators and artists, one of my animation heroes, is affected by my same condition as me really put a salve on what was beginning to feel like a wound. I met Glen Keane briefly while storyboarding on Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure and I REALLY lament not knowing about Aphantasia back then. I would have loved to talk to him about the shared experience.
Not that I’m remotely as talented as Keane, but the way he describes his artistic process in interviews, the way his art looks at inception: exploratory scribbles until he finds his way and hones his vision…I absolutely work in a similar way. I often joke with my colleagues that my first pass on boards and drawings are VERY loose and scribbly and my second passes are almost a 180 from that. Sometimes I will re-sketch something two or three times before I finally start to put “final” line art down. And even then, I think my work looks somewhat sketchy. I never knew the reason could be that, in part, I am finding my way through thoughts rather than pulling directly from a pre-existing image in my mind. I did not even know that was a thing artists could do! Amazing! Both ways of thinking and “visualizing” as they might apply to making art are incredibly fascinating to me. Seeing Glen Keane’s art, I have always really felt it, too. Very strongly. In my opinion, Mr. Keane is a master in capturing emotions through drawing and animation. I wonder if that is because that is what a lot of us artists with Aphantasia pull from…? Not just memories, but deeply-felt feelings. Emotions!
As romantic as my ideas about Glen Keane’s process, and with the knowledge of other artists with Aphantasia at major animation studios, and despite having spoken to some close artist friends about Aphantasia- there remains a slight frustration in me about having this condition. It’s kind of hard not to feel ripped off! I remember my first instance of playful outrage that many friends and colleagues in my field were walking around with some huge “advantage” when it came to artistic execution. Honestly, the way friends describe visualizong makes it sound like a superpower to me. But, however playfully I griped about the cosmic unfairness, there was a nugget of truth to my feelings. I feel like this condition has caused me to struggle in ways that aren’t as relatable to some of my peers.
I started thinking back to formative moments in my education as well as my professional career and, knowing what I now know about Aphantasia, certain things make a lot more sense. I remember when I was attending an artist program at Cal-Arts the summer of my sixteenth birthday and we were asked to submit sketchbooks for review. One of the critiques I was given was to “try to sketch a little less, just put pen to paper” in reference to the more exploratory, scribbly drawings I would include. I remember this feedback so well because it really stumped me. It was valid enough feedback to offer, but I really struggled to understand how peer artists could just immediately put an ink pen to paper and perfectly execute a drawing without incorrect form, proportion, perspective. No mistakes? No erasing and re-drawing? Straight to ink?! I began to have this almost hyper-fixated envy for artists who could do that…especially in story rooms where we’re all throwing up cards and post-it notes to pitch ideas and gags very quickly. I still sometimes feel the struggle to maintain speed and quality equally and match the quick-draw doodlers around me. Over the years, I have I blamed a lot on my skills. I just thought: well, get better, you’re not as good as them. There are levels of truth to everything and I’ll remain a harsh critic of my own art until I die, probably. But! I didn’t realize at the time when I was harshest on myself what it meant to have Aphantasia and how that may have played a part in what I was experiencing.
Another such incident was during one of my earliest storyboarding gigs. I had sort of generally noticed that I fatigued faster or more easily in storyboarding than some of my friends and peers but, again, I just blamed these feelings of burnout on my skills. I felt my skills weren’t strong enough, I was lazy, I was being a baby about a workload others took less issue with, etc. I was good at my job, I just felt like I always had to push harder to be good than those around me. I guess, as an observer, it just felt like their art was crafted so effortlessly, in a way mine was not. All art takes effort, of course, but it felt like if my friends were walking up a mountain with a heavy backpack, I had an anvil on my back. I know we all feel this way as artists at times…but please bear with my analogy. 🙂 I mean no disrespect.
On one particular episode of this show (granted, my leadership on this show was…not very tactful in giving feedback…to say the least), I remember one of my bosses getting kind of irritated with how difficult it seemed for me to understand the layout of a particular set piece. He kind of snapped at me and just sort of threw out this, “I don’t get how you don’t get this” statement- confused as to why I couldn’t just visualize the set in question from all angles and mentally place my cameras with perfect continuity, without issue. Well, it’s four years later, and I think I might finally know why?
It isn’t to say I didn’t get there. It just didn’t come as naturally. If you’re familiar with cinema, animation, you might know what an “overhead schematic” is. If not, look it up, but my short description of it is: an overhead view of a set piece where you (in my case) draw tiny cameras indicating where a live-action camera would be placed on the set to “shoot.” This method is extremely helpful to me in instances where I get turned around in a location. In the event an overhead schematic doesn’t already exist in production as a point of reference, I never struggled to sit with a designer or director and rough one out to help me plan a scene.
Still, the lack of patience from my boss, the lack of understanding from a teacher, the harshness I redirected to myself, is why I became so fascinated by Aphantasia once I learned what it was. Getting artistic feedback or critique certainly isn’t special, or anything much worth writing about…nor is Aphantasia the only excuse I would have for getting a critique on my art. However, in the incidents I have mentioned, I have to wonder if the reasons those critiques feel so formative is because they stem from a condition I struggle against and, in some ways, can’t exactly change? And I think the reason I’ve received some feedback perhaps a little flippantly is simply because people don’t have a universal awareness that this condition even exists!
A lot of people are astounded we can even be artists, let alone work for big studios, etc. and I would love to continue to talk to others with Aphantasia who have taken such paths in life.
So, I relate to the attorney who thought he was a manifesting his destiny, only to pull the plug on generations’-worth of work, and find himself at a Square 1.
I had a similar thing thrust upon me. I think being insulated from material realities has a lot to do with aphantasia. This is partly informed by spending hundreds of hours in conversation with someone who is hyper-visual; partly a general inference from long observation and thought, and partly a connection with the above-mentioned story.
The abstract intellect isn’t concerned with particular things, but images are. The associate in question grew up so poor he often didn’t have food in the fridge. Material survival was a constant concern, and material desire seems to go hand-in-hand with visual ability. All the books on creative visualization indicate this, too. They also say “The more ‘intelligent’ you are, the less likely you are to be able to visualize”. This makes me think that, in a childhood/adolescent situation where material things are abundant, and things are secure, the abstract/linguistic part of the mind is more likely to be active. This might also be connected with women’s historically stronger linguistic ability; women didn’t face the same material pressures as men did, but were more concerned with relationships. The aristocracy are the social classes, because they’ve mastered the material, and manners become important. I’m thinking with my fingers, but there we go.
But, basically, I’ve found myself in a position where my mind is tuned to the abstract and logical, but my material foundation was pulled away when I reached my 20’s, and without any concrete knowledge about how the world works, it’s a miracle I’m still around. And as for purpose and a vision for the future, it’s like shooting in the dark.
People mistake my confusion and frustration for self-pity, which is doubly infuriating, because I don’t pity myself, I’m just enraged that I don’t have the tools everyone else takes for granted, and for years I (correctly) intuited that keeping my mouth shut and trying to handle things alone was the best way forward, but now I’ve decided to ask for help, I just keep getting people ask me unanswerable questions like, “Well, what would you like to do?”, or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, or otherwise they give me super-helpful advice like, “Just get a job.” Right. I’ve spent 20 years in tertiary education, or trying to learn new skills and broaden my horizon, never suspecting that the baseline of life is money, and not a fanciful sense of off-beat living. People think I’m either lazy or a Bohemian, when I’ve worked out that I’m actually conservative, but have no way to express this without contacts and/or a trade to ply.
Developing visual imagination etc. feels like a big regression and waste of time, but I’m having to do it nonetheless. And I find myself around concrete thinkers who think I’m beneath them because I’m not loud, aggressive, grasping, and concerned with how much everything costs.
I’ve always gone for voluntary gigs, but at this stage I’m going to have to bite the bullet and try out for something like the military, in the hopes I can salvage a life for myself. The alternative is not pretty. There’s only so much one soul can take.
Sorry for not giving anything fluffy, but unless someone develops a support service for helping floundering aphantasiacs support themselves financially, with some dignity, then this particular product is redundant, from my own frustrated perspective.
For many years, I have really wanted to share experiences with others who have little or no visual imagination, because this interesting characteristic has helped shape my life.
So, why today? Well, last Sunday afternoon, I was out and about with my neighbour and newish friend ‘A’. She turned her car around while I went on a quick errand. – PROBLEM: previously her car had stayed put, and if I needed to find it when she was not beside me, I only had to remember where we left it. That is in itself was actually a little risky, but my memory of where it was parked had not, as it happened, ever let me down. This time, I needed to find a car that had moved, and I had not bothered to memorize the number plate, or the make, and had no name for the colour! I can visualize proper colours such as red or blue, but this wasn’t a real colour, wasn’t white, or grey, or off-white or metallic, and it has to be said that I am not interested in cars.
Worried I might approach a car with a stranger inside – it is not easy to see in clearly – I took my time. ‘A’ was horrified because she thought I could not SEE the car!!!! Worse, I had been sharing that I perhaps ought to try driving lessons, even though I am in my 60’s!
Because of this funny incident, I decided to again try to find something on the Internet about people lacking visualization. I last tried maybe around 10 years ago, but couldn’t hit on a successful search term then. Now, sentences and questions work, so I hit info at last! I just want to break the isolation of this quirk, and have a good natter with others.
The trait helped wreck my education because of the methods used at my first school. Several years into failing and being left right behind with reading (hated books) there was a class where the teacher chalked words up on the board, one at a time, then wiped them off – I was probably 7. The class were asked each time to put up their hands if they could spell that word, and it seemed everyone could except me. That was the fateful day that I decided I must be stupid, and would never be able to read or write. On the writing front, the school demanded correct spelling: no mistakes allowed. This scared me out of attempting essays until I was 14, when I began to break free.
With different school emphasis, and different methods, I would have progressed fine and probably done well academically.
I remember being very angry about the illogicality of spelling, and thinking (and probably yelling) “Spelling is stupid. How can anyone remember it!!?”
I need to understand things to remember them, and actually that is positive. I do think the trait has stretched my intelligence.