Artist Conducts Experiment Where he Draws Himself While on Different Drugs and Alcohol

Art, drugs and alcohol have gone hand in hand for centuries. Van Gogh was an avid Absinthe drinker and was known to finish a long day by taking a seat on a terrace with glass in hand, absinthe and brandy following each other in quick succession. Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas were also fans of the aquamarine liqueur, the former drinking it from a hollowed walking stick, the latter immortalizing it in his bleary-eyed painting, Absinthe Drinker. Van Gogh’s penchant for hallucinogens didn’t end with Absinthe. He was also known to have a hunger for unnatural “foods”, and on occasion attempted to eat his paints and drink turpentine.

If drugs and weren’t alcohol fueling creativity, it was something stronger. In the 19th century Opium was the drug of choice. Thomas De Quincey (an English essayist), known for a rare kind of imaginative prose that anticipated the modern “stream-of-consciousness” technique, used opium daily and was addicted to the drug from the age of 19 until he died. Coleridge saw the palace of Kublai Khan in a trance and sang its praise ‘‘in a state of Reverie, caused by 2 grains of opium.’’ Coleridge wrote: ‘‘For he on honeydew hath fed/And drunk the milk of Paradise.’’ John Keats also tried the drug and stated in his Ode to Melancholy: ‘‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/My sense, as although of hemlock I had drunk/Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains.’’ Hector Berlioz, (the famous 19th century composer) used opium to relieve himself of the pain of chronic toothache. Whether he used it to enhance creativity is unclear, however he went on to compose the Symphonie Fantastique, in which the hero (a thinly disguised representation of Berlioz himself) supposedly survives a large dose of narcotic.

Modern artists have been happy to follow in the steps of their predecessors. Australia’s own Brett Whiteley was clearly interested in the effects of alcohol on creativity when, in 1971, he painted the aptly named “Self portrait after three bottles of wine”.

Now, Bryan Lewis Saunders, an American artist based in Washington D.C. has taken the exploration of art, drugs and alcohol to a completely new level.

“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of the self. So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence. Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time. I only take drugs that are given to me.”

Whether you believe drugs and alcohol to be a relevant source of creativity, or simply consider them crutches on which the weak of talent rely, it is amazing to see the influence they can have within a controlled artistic experiment.

Below are a collection of portraits drawn whilst Saunders was under the influence of various substances ranging from cocaine, to marijuana, to DMT. Each gives us an astonishing look into the creativity of a drug affected mind and, at the very least, provides a unique record of one artist’s exploration to the edge of chemical influence.

Ativan / Haloperidol (doseage unknown in hospital)

Psilocybin Mushrooms (2 caps onset)

Abilify / Xanax / Ativan

90mg Abilify

1 Small Glass of “real” Absinth

10mg Adderall

Bath Salts

10mg Ambien

15mg Buspar (snorted)

250mg Cephalexin

1/2 gram Cocaine

Computer Duster (2 squirts)

2 bottles of Cough Syrup

1 “Bump” of Crystalmeth

1 shot of Dilaudid / 3 shots of Morphine



Huffing Gas

Huffing Lighter Fluid

7.5mg Hydrocodone / 7.5mg Oxycodone / 3mg Xanax

3mg Klonopin

G13 Marijuana

Morphine IV

2mg Nicotine Gum



Marijuana Resin

Valium IV, (Albuterol, Saline & Oxygen) mixture

2mg Xanax

Ritilin (doseage unknown-snorted)

100mg Trazadone

Salvia Divinorum

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  1. I sit here and chuckle; none of you truly understand this concept design of human consciousness. If you know anything about your spirit/soul you know that these “self-portraits” are definitely different shaded lenses on an array of sunglasses, and less a message like “do drugs for perspective/art” –crap … This was meant to showcase the attitude assumed when institutional drug-use is applied to the art as a filter.

  2. Kubrick said it best: ” I believe that drugs are basically of more use to the audience than to
    the artist. I think that the illusion of oneness with the universe, and
    absorption with the significance of every object in your environment,
    and the pervasive aura of peace and contentment is not the ideal state
    for an artist. It tranquilizes the creative personality, which thrives
    on conflict and on the clash and ferment of ideas. The artist’s
    transcendence must be within his own work; he should not impose any
    artificial barriers between himself and the mainspring of his
    subconscious. One of the things that’s turned me against LSD is that all
    the people I know who use it have a peculiar inability to distinguish
    between things that are really interesting and stimulating and things
    that appear so in the state of universal bliss the drug induces on a
    good trip. They seem to completely lose their critical faculties and
    disengage themselves from some of the most stimulating areas of life.
    Perhaps when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful”

  3. I guess you did it because you could – why in the f… would you screw yourself like that when you such talent – I would give my left nut to have half of your ability.

  4. I shall share with you and recommend one of the greatest and also very prolific Polish artists that used to live between XIX and XX c. called Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz). He was a playwriter, painter, photographer and philosopher mostly fancied in portraits. He painted over 3000 portraits that he described with different signatures,depends on what he took while drawing (mescaline,LSD,cocaine,absint,etc.). Also wrote a book Narcotics – Unwashed souls . For Poland he’s somewhat like Salvadore Dali for Spain (that’s my opinion,but I think not many would argue..). In his book he put tabaco, caffeine and alcohol as three most dangerous and most addictive of all (with tabaco at first place). That is also very interesting, how much his work are simmilar to these pictures above, in a matter of colours and… form (Witkacy is also an author of the Theory of Pure Form).

    1. No, 10mg adderall is fuck all and if anything would make his hands tremble slightly. People with ADHD can take 20 and go about their business. If you don’t have ADHD you might feel like you are on a low dose of speed, but there is no reason you would imagine yourself as a snake. Clearly he’s just being creative with them all, not trying to draw himself as he sees himself.
      That’s a bit disappointing, I wanted to see him trying to draw what he saw in the mirror.

  5. Every drug ever taken has an effect. Basically the dude has snowballed from one to the next. Each experience has taken its toll. How can you really define each experience unless you view them chronologically…

  6. This is interesting, however, really really stupid. Taking drugs for an art experiment is just rediculous. You are already having brain damage, then stop. Draw a self portrait sober. That is the tough part.

      1. I learned, today, that NYU doesn’t require correct spelling, nor proper sentence structure. I also learned that despite the use of drugs and alcohol embodied within my current system, I can conjure a retort; one which abides the laws of grammar.

    1. High and low blood sugar impact your mood. Your mood dictates your output. Every Chemical impacts your brain chemistry on some level from taking acetaminophen to eating Salmon… Think about it that way.

    1. The bath salts drawing leads me to believe this isn’t all real and is a bit skewed to alter one’s perception of different drugs. It seems to me like he had a perception of how he would be on the drug before he took it and it affected his drawings subconsciously while on it. I say this because I’ve taken bath salts before and in low doses the trip isn’t that bad. Yes, they’re definitely bad for your health and deadly, but you won’t become a psychotic face eating killer like the news portrays it to be.

    1. It’s funny he would use Salvia where you’re way too high to do anything for 5 minutes then you come down. The illustration on DMT was about what I expected

          1. Well, emotions, like drugs, release chemicals in your brain that have cognitive effects ;)

          1. noun
            Tall structure, often conical or hexagonal in shape and usually attached to a church or place of worship.

            If you’re from up north.

  7. I understand you wanting to research this subject but do you have a death wish taking all of these. Please stop this is not safe

      1. Doing a whole cocktail of drugs is not synonymous with enjoying life.
        Also you are more likely to ruin your brain permanently than just simply die.
        So the whole ‘YOLO’ b/s only applies in the sense that you only have one brain to ruin, and once it’s ruined you are ruined.
        All things in moderation.

        1. By your logic you should also take moderation in moderation.

          While drugs may not bring you any joy, it does for some people. Life is too short to let others tell you whats allowed to be enjoyable or fun.

    1. Do you even have any idea about how drugs work? Most of this stuff was likely legally prescribed and I’m sure you don’t take issue with those…

      1. I work in the medical field so yes i completely understand how these drugs work and i do take issue with ppl getting prescriptions just to get high but thanks for assuming you know me when i was just showing concern

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