Back to Arts


Are they a good mix?

WINSTON CHURCHILL: He was probably sauced in this picture.

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Art and drugs was a hit in last week's column. Apparently Layne Staley was banging all the way through Mad Season, and people like drugs. And apparently I totally missed the point of a recent request to write about art and drugs. The request, which came from a reader, was for a suggestion list of altered states of consciousness conducive to artistic exploration and expression.

Now, why this person thinks I would know about such things is beyond me. So we're just going to continue to explore things people have done to alter their perceptual field in the pursuit of art. Neither I nor the Weekly Volcano endorses any of them. This is pure information. Anything you do to your brain is at your own personal risk.

We begin with Tacoma's favorite - Alcohol.

Winston Churchill said alcohol was crucial for The World Crisis, his six-volume memoirs. William Faulkner drank more intermittently, but claimed not to be able to write without a bottle of whiskey in hand. Beethoven drank quite a bit in the later part of his creative life. Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon and many others liked to sip while working. It would seem liquor and creativity are at least historically linked.

But recent research suggests these folks were among a rare few.

These days it's known that a glass of wine or a beer is good if you need to relax. And some research has shown that the big blasts of alpha brain waves produced by booze can jumpstart inspiration. But the bulk of research available suggests drinking and art don't generally mix.

Why? Well, too much alcohol makes you sloppy, inattentive and impatient. Recent research suggests alcohol is a neurotoxic agent (a.k.a. poisonous) at lower doses than was previously recognized. Even light to moderate drinking can impair essential creative functions such as abstracting, adaptive ability, concept formation and short-term learning function. Over time, alcohol consumption has a range of neurological and physical effects that add up to trouble for the artist who wishes to remain productive and on top of his or her game.

Upton Sinclair wrote about Sinclair Lewis and his drinking, saying, "Through a miracle of physical stamina, [Lewis] made it to the age of 66. More tragic than any shortage of years was the loss of productivity, the absence of joy."

That said, there is a small percentage of the population believed to have what some refer to as the "Churchill gene," which may explain why some people can drink like fish and still do just fine. A study conducted at the University of Colorado tested the presence of the so-called "G-variant" in some people in relation to alcohol. In those that have the variant, alcohol created stronger feelings of elation and happiness followed by a longer period of relaxation than it did in those who don't have it. This variant may explain why some creative people are able to drink heavily and still produce.  However, the main thing to keep in mind is simple: only 10 percent of the population is suspected of having this genetic gift.

Which means about one of every 10 artists that drink heavily actually gets away with it.

Do the math.

Joe Malik is a jaded, ornery, "power to the people type" that can't help but comment on all the stupid, awesome, or just plain questionable stuff he sees within the local arts community. Basically, he's kind of an arts-centric asshole - but we like him. The Weekly Volcano doesn't always agree with what he says, but we do enjoy stirring the pot.

Read next close


Don't be cruel

Comments for "SLOUGHING TOWARD UTOPIA: Booze and art" (1)

Weekly Volcano is not responsible for the content of these comments. Weekly Volcano reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

User Photo

Warren said on Jul. 15, 2010 at 12:43am

Next edition: POT and ART. Oh wait the hemp fest was last week.

Leave A Comment

(This will not be published)


Respond on Your Blog

If you have a Weekly Volcano Account you can not only post comments, but you can also respond to articles in your own Weekly Volcano Blog. It's just another way to make your voice heard.

Site Search