Watch What Happens When a Portrait Artist Takes LSD

In the 1950s, while the CIA and the military were doing secret LSD experiments in hopes of gaining some advantage over the Soviets, others were researching the novel psychedelic with more benign aims. One of the pioneering scientists was Dr. Oscar Janiger, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and psychotherapist.


Beginning in 1954 and continuing through 1962, Janiger conducted a series of experiments to examine the effects of LSD. Having obtained the drug from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, which held the patent on LSD and manufactured it, he administered monitored doses of Sandoz LSD to some 900 subjects, including many professional artists.

Through the experiments, Janiger sought to "illuminate the phenomenological nature of the LSD experience," and he did so using relatively moderate doses, typically between 100 and 200 micrograms.

Here we see the effects of LSD on the work of a portrait artist. He was given two 50-microgram doses of LSD an hour apart, then encouraged to draw portraits of Janiger. The unknown artist drew nine portraits over eight hours after ingesting the mild-altering drug. Read his comments below:

20 minutes after first dose: The artist reports, "Condition normal…no effect from the drug yet."

85 minutes: "I can see you clearly, so clearly. This…you…it's all…I'm having trouble controlling the pencil. It seems to want to keep going"

2 hours and 30 minutes: "I feel that my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active—my hand, my elbow, my tongue."

2 hours and 45 minutes: "I am…everything is…changed…they're calling…your face…interwoven…who is…"

4 hours and 25 minutes: "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. I know. I know…

5 hours and 45 minutes: "I think it's starting to wear off. This pencil is mighty hard to hold."

8 hours: "I have nothing to say about this last drawing. It is bad and uninteresting. I want to go home now."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.