An Artist’s Quest To Create Self-Portraits Under The Influence Of Every Drug

For his Drugs series, artist Bryan Lewis Saunders allegedly took a different mind-altering intoxicant daily and on each occasion drew a self-portrait. He has since dialed down the intensity of the experiment after suffering mild brain damage and being hospitalized, but it remains a noble endeavor and one which reveals a startling journey. The substances imbibed include Xanax, crystal meth, cough syrup, Klonopin,the jailhouse drink pruno, PCP, and, results seen below, mushrooms, morphine, and bath salts:

  • Anarchy Pony

    The one on the far right there looks kinda like Sloth from The Goonies.

  • Ronniedobbs

    no pain no gain pussy  

  • Jesus Borg

    I want to know what that drug on the left was. I want to know what the one on the right is too (so I can avoid it) that looks like it really fucked him up. 

    • Jesus Borg

       I can’t find that last one on the website, but it looks most like the PCP one. I think he should stay away from cocaine, PCP and huffing solvents and shit. As much as I hate to say it the meth one looks pretty cool. I wonder which one put him in the hospital? I know people that huff stuff getted pretty fucked up over time.

      Weeds, shrooms and opiates seem to agree with him. Ritalin and Adderall make him draw pretty cool too.

      • Thom Vane

        The far right is bath salts according to the OP.

    • Toadskin

      Drawing on the left was psylocybin. I’ve got plenty of drawings very much along the same lines, with the same influence – the tracers and after image shuddering are common elements. Love it!

    • Wanted

      the left is magic mushrooms and the right is bath salts. 

  • Camron Wiltshire

    Fantastic!  Yes curious which substance caused the brain damage.

    • Nunzio X

      Living in America is enough to cause it.

      • Camron Wiltshire

        Appropriate drug synonym

    • TennesseeCyberian

      Oddly enough, I went to school with Saunders at ETSU back in ’98.  I hung out with him in his dorm room a few times with a mutual writer friend, and remember him as a weird, yet unexpectedly lucid individual.  Even back then, he made it his duty to do at least one self-portrait every day and had notebooks full of them, each in a different style.

      He also got into some trouble for painting a picture with his own feces and putting it up at a gallery, maybe on campus.  Did I mention that he was incredibly lucid?

      I’d bet the alleged “brain damage” is self-diagnosed, but even with a few synapses frying on the pan, Bryan obviously keeps the train rolling full speed.

  • Camron Wiltshire

    This guy would be great on the podcast. 
    I love what I’m seeing so far.

    Here is an excerpt from an interview on his site.

    You are perhaps a less typical subject for inclusion in Special Interests.  Most of our interviews focus on sound artists, yet you have been gaining recognition for your unique and unsettling presentation of spoken word, aptly called “stand-up tragedy.”  Explain the subject matter and aesthetics that characterize “stand-up tragedy” and how it stands apart from more mainstream spoken word. Stand-up tragedy is the exact opposite of stand-up comedy. Instead of evoking laughter from strangers I make them cry, or make them feel like they’re about to die.  The subject matter is dark and involves a wide variety of subjects from the vile side of American life.  It’s purification through purging.  It stands apart from mainstream spoken word because it’s not positive, not rap, not slam poetry, it has nothing to do with self-indulgence.  What I do is attack my own experiences using video and words and sound all at once, in order to make showing pain in public socially acceptable.  Too many people are alone and hiding their suffering, and when they finally come out and the pain comes out that’s when the really “bad stuff” happens.  Believe me I know.  Some say what I do is demonic because of the subject matter and the intensity, but the goal is to achieve catharsis and cleansing and to try and prevent more “bad stuff” from happening.

  • Desinco

    Simply amazing. A wonderful display of human creative skill though ‘influenced’ imagination. 

  • James Inman

     What no acid?

  • Thom Vane

    I remember seeing these a few years back. My issue with them is his choice of medium for a given work are a bit on the nose in terms of the type of imagery typical for that substance. eg: angry charcoal for coke, coloured pencil for shrooms. Some of the materials he’s chosen would have taken some preparation and forethought, which kinda kills the ‘this is what drugs look like’ conceit, for myself at least.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Fair play, but can you really imagine a workable format for an entire series that would NOT disproportionately priviledge some drugs over others at the expense of comparability?  He’s only one man.  Even if he had unlimited resources in time, money and experience, it’d be all but impossible for him to be equally competent in all media.

      Which points would all rendered moot anyway by the thousands of unrecognized and uncontrollable variables effecting a process so fundamentally subjective as art (e.g., frustration engendered by being woken at 5:30 AM by some ham-fisted sanitation department crew backing over your mail box).

      • Thom Vane

        Well, he could have done them all in one medium. So they’d all be in charcoal, or watercolor. You can still do an angry watercolor. If they all start from the same place, we could see how each work deviated.

        He’s presumably got a preferred medium that he’s more competent at. He could have used whichever gave him the most developed vocabulary to help him better articulate what was going on.

        That was my original point, anyway. Looking at the rest of his site he apparently does a daily self portrait regardless of drug intake( and still uses whatever media). The drug series was culled from those.

  • Goodpeoplesleepathome

    May be we are all on a drug named “reality” (in dosage unknown to modern medicine) 

    • rtb61

       I guess you never heard of naturally produced brain chemicals, the real drivers for our emotions.

  • Jak

     Finally he is the one who brought us the images out of reality. Which means that our perception of reality is very subjective. 

  • Radii

    The worst was Geodon, which my doctor prescribed me, but I decided not to start. He punched holes pinning himself to the wall. I hope that’s more than a normal, prescribed dose.

  • PlantsNeedLovingToo

    I noticed that Jenkem was not on the list.

  • Liam_McGonagle


    Now we know that cocaine goes a long way towards explaining H.R. Giger and the morphine aesthetic behind Gustav Klimt’s color palette.

    • Calypso_1

      I’ve wondered if Giger engages in fetish endoscopy.

  • Wanted

    Cool stuff cept the brain damage part. I have tried to draw under LSD and it came out pretty sweet.

  • Gregory Wyrdmaven

    Saw this on Dangerous Minds.  These are clearly contrived.  He should have stuck with one kind of media.  Because this clearly shows that he is trying to represent the drug visually, not what the drugs do to his artistic vision.  At face value, they’re interesting pieces, with a mix of tight craftsmenship and loose, abstract touches.  But they shouldn’t be looked at as something which really says, “This is what (insert drug here) does to you.”

    Fiat lux

  • Lucifershal0

    The 3rd picture looks like sloth from the Goonies!!!

  • Jamey

    I have hung out with this guy. He’s … well… he’s one of the most unusual and unique characters I’ve ever met. Insanely brilliant or just insane? It’s hard to tell.

  • Vexstaticeuphoria

    Why would you call this endeavor a “noble” one?  How is it so?

  • Shaggymcl

    The one on the end looks like the bath salts one. Maybe it really does make you want to eat someones face.

  • Joel West

     I always did find drawing on psychedelics pretty amusing.