This 1950s Expirement Asked Artist to Draw Portrait 9 Times After Taking LSD
By | September 13, 2017
In the 1950s the US government did experiments with psychotomimetic drugs. In one of these experiments, an artist was given a measured amount of LSD and an activity box full of drawing materials. He was then asked to draw his experiences while under the influence. The experiment was facilitated by Oscar Janiger, a University of California-Irvine psychiatrist known for his work on acid.
As you can see from the series of photos below, the result was sort of trippy. Things started out normally, but a little over on hour into the experiment, the artist's perception of reality started to warp. The photos captured the various stages of his hallucinogenic journey, with notes from an attending doctor. Please, don't try this at home.
20 Minutes After The First Dose Has Been Administered (50ug)
Subject chooses to start drawing with charcoal. The subject of the experiment reports - 'Condition normal... no effect from the drug yet'.
85 Minutes After First Dose And 20 Minutes After A Second Dose (50ug + 50ug)
The subject seems euphoric. 'I can see you clearly, so clearly. This... you... it's all... I'm having a little trouble controlling this pencil. It seems to want to keep going.'
2 Hours 30 Minutes After First Dose
Subject appears very focused on the business of drawing. 'Outlines seem normal, but very vivid - everything is changing colour. My hand must follow the bold sweep of the lines. I feel as if my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active - my hand, my elbow... my tongue'.
2 Hours 32 Minutes After First Dose
Subject seems gripped by his pad of paper. 'I'm trying another drawing. The outlines of the model are normal, but now those of my drawing are not. The outline of my hand is going weird too. It's not a very good drawing is it? I give up - I'll try again...'
2 Hours 35 Minutes After First Dose
Subject follows quickly with another drawing. 'I'll do a drawing in one flourish... without stopping... one line, no break!' Upon completing the drawing the patient starts laughing, then becomes startled by something on the floor.
2 Hours 45 Minutes After First Dose
Subject tries to climb into activity box, and is generally agitated - responds slowly to the suggestion he might like to draw some more. He has become largely non verbal. 'I am... everything is... changed... they're calling... your face... interwoven... who is...' Subject mumbles inaudibly to a tune (sounds like 'Thanks for the memory'). He changes medium to Tempera.
4 Hours 25 Minutes After First Dose
Subject retreated to the bunk, spending approximately 2 hours lying, waving his hands in the air. His return to the activity box is sudden and deliberate, changing media to pen and water colour.) 'This will be the best drawing, like the first one, only better. If I'm not careful I'll lose control of my movements, but I won't, because I know. I know' - (this saying is then repeated many times) Subject makes the last half-a-dozen strokes of the drawing while running back and forth across the room.
5 Hours 45 Minutes After First Dose
Subject continues to move about the room, intersecting the space in complex variations. It's an hour and a half before he settles down to draw again - he appears over the effects of the drug. 'I can feel my knees again, I think it's starting to wear off. This is a pretty good drawing - this pencil is mighty hard to hold' - (he is holding a crayon).
8 Hours After First Dose
Subject sits on bunk bed. He reports the intoxication has worn off except for the occasional distorting of our faces. We ask for a final drawing which he performs with little enthusiasm. 'I have nothing to say about this last drawing, it is bad and uninteresting, I want to go home now.'