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:

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

  1. Anarchy Pony | Aug 3, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

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

  2. Ronniedobbs | Aug 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

    no pain no gain pussy  

  3. Jesus Borg | Aug 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

    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 | Aug 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm |

       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.

    • Toadskin | Aug 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm |

      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!

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

  4. Fantastic!  Yes curious which substance caused the brain damage.

    • Nunzio X | Aug 4, 2012 at 4:01 am |

      Living in America is enough to cause it.

    • TennesseeCyberian | Aug 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

      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.

  5. 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.

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

  7.  What no acid?

  8. Thom Vane | Aug 4, 2012 at 2:51 am |

    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 | Aug 4, 2012 at 11:38 am |

      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 | Aug 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm |

        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.

  9. Goodpeoplesleepathome | Aug 4, 2012 at 2:59 am |

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

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

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

  11. 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.

  12. PlantsNeedLovingToo | Aug 4, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    I noticed that Jenkem was not on the list.

  13. Liam_McGonagle | Aug 4, 2012 at 11:29 am |


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

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

  15. Gregory Wyrdmaven | Aug 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    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

  16. Lucifershal0 | Aug 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm |

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

  17. 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.

  18. Vexstaticeuphoria | Aug 10, 2012 at 9:18 am |

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

  19. Shaggymcl | Aug 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |

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

  20.  I always did find drawing on psychedelics pretty amusing.

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