You know those TV commercials for prescription drugs that always feature a voiceover rapidly listing a bizarre array of possible side effects? Well, along with including symptoms such as headaches, bloating, insomnia, decreased appetite, heartburn, diarrhea, suicidal thoughts, and anal discharge, perhaps drug companies should add ‘freaky-looking art’. Artist Bryan Lewis Saunders was curious about the effects of drugs on his work, so in a strange combination of art project and narcotic experimentation, he took a different drug each day and drew a self-portrait. And the results are both amazing and scary, sort of the artistic equivalent of those old This Is Your Brain on Drugs posters.
The range of drugs Saunders consumed is broad, from hash to Percocet to lighter fluid. He even inhaled a can of computer duster. Smoking marijuana, for instance, produced a peaceful, happy, rainbow-colored image. On the other hand, taking crystal meth resulted in a painting that looks like one of Edvard Munch’s nightmares. Several of the paintings reveal that Saunders was hospitalized (one is even a sketch he did while on a valium I.V.). And after taking the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa, Saunders drew a sketch of patients lining up for their medication. It includes the line “It’s worth the wait!” A documentary on Saunders’ life and work, Art of Darkness, is currently doing the film festival circuit.