The Artists Speak Out
Contrary to popular belief at the time of Janiger’s study, most artists found it possible to exercise some technical proficiency with varying degrees of success under the influence of LSD. To Janiger’s surprise, he found that artists gradually became more adept working under the influence of LSD. They found a way to draw inspiration from the LSD state for the creation of art and were increasingly able to control the physical expression of their subjective vision. The artists who were most able to represent their subjective LSD experiences in their art were those who had most developed their technical abilities so that they had the rigor to bring back to consensual reality their artistic vision. One artist stated that this experience was “more creative than a dream, more original than that of a madman’s vision.”
Nevertheless, as Hertel and others have noted, the psychedelically inspired artistic products are not, ipso facto, superior to those performed in ordinary states of consciousness. On the other hand, these artistic productions are not, ipso facto, inferior either. In evaluating the reports and follow-up questionnaires, the works are often judged by the artists to be more interesting or even aesthetically superior to their usual mode of expression. In many cases, the artists felt that the LSD experience produced some desirable lasting change in their understanding of their work, which continued to influence the form and direction of their artistic development. Some noted that a so-called confessional or disorganized phase followed, which may represent a creative crisis in which the artist struggled to maintain his or her traditional approach until finally reaching another level of integration and expression.
These metamorphoses all contributed to the artists’ convictions that they were able to create new meanings in an emergent world. Overall, the artists reported that in their LSD experiences they had gained the ability to generate original insights, fresh perspectives and novel, creative form. From the artists’ follow-up questionnaires, Janiger abstracted a series of statements that were exhibited in the l985 art exhibit. In this section, some of the artists’ diverse experiences are presented.
“I went immediately to work upon arriving at the studio. The color I used became alive on the brush. All self-consciousness, value and judgment disappeared. Paint became like shining liquid metal, and ink like expanding jewels. I was capable of attention only in the area of my brush and it seemed impossible to attend to the composing of an area larger than two or three square inches. The excitement of the materials and the surfaces became overwhelming. After working for a certain amount of time, I became more conscious of space and area and application of paint became like great explosions, strokes always radiating from a center, then trailing or swirling off to radiate from another. The brushes seemed too small, and I moved to a three-inch house brush. Before long I was dipping into the paint cans with my hands and pouring colored inks from the bottles. Color and form vibrated and moved with the music being played and waves of joy and excitement flooded through me. The universe manifested itself in the spreading of ink on soft paper and color fusing became like the exploding gasses on the surface of the sun.”
“That night, after returning to my studio, I finished the pastel I began that afternoon and did two more, working into the early hours of the next morning. The next day I finished a painting I had been working on for a week, unifying it in a matter of two hours. What had happened? The answer lies in the area of experience. I had witnessed the unity of the Universe and could now paint with this knowledge. This knowledge might prompt the subtlest change in line or color or attitude on my part. But it is just this kind of fine adjustment that can make a painting “work” in terms of color or movement or meaning. It means that I have adopted a new, higher criteria. It doesn’t mean that magic will gush from my brush, but rather that I will paint and paint some more until the painting arrives at what I want it to be.”