Cannabis and Art: Unlocking Your Creative Potential
“Cannabis enhances flow states of the imagination through every stroke of the pen or brush… and that flow is Creativity itself.” - Alex Grey
Author: Samantha M., Pe Marketing Lead
Cannabis has a long-standing association with all things creative - be it music, writing, or in this case, the creation of art through drawing, painting, sculpting, or any other medium. Many renowned artists have used cannabis to tap into their most creative inner selves, remove the inhibitions and self-doubting anxiety that often plague creative minds, and enter a creative flow state - as the illustrious artist of Tool album art fame Alex Grey mentions in the quote above.
Though anecdotal reports of increased artistic creativity are very common among cannabis users, as you can imagine, it can be quite difficult for hard science to tease out the underlying causes behind these reported effects. However, given the prevalence of these reports, neuroscientists with interest in our creative process have done some basic studies that give us some clarity to the possible interactions in our brains that might cause cannabis to increase our creative expression. In this article, we’ll look at what those studies have found, and give recommendations on the best ways to maximize your artistic creation sessions through the aid of cannabis. Let’s start with what scientists have learned recently…
The Science of Cannabis and Artistic Creativity’s Interactions
Creativity is defined as our ability to take a mundane idea or object and create something novel, meaningful and unique through the applications of our imaginations. This process has the most profound impact in artistic creation, where the end products are manifestations of the creators’ individual talents, perceptions, and emotions. The type of introspection that is required to create impactful art is often accompanied by performance anxiety and feelings of self-doubt - therapists and psychologists have noticed trends toward increased anxiety in exceptionally creative minds with symptoms varying widely from person to person, but consistently impacting the creative process. Cannabis is often employed for anxiety relief, so it makes sense that the use of cannabis has been widely embraced by the artist community - not only can it quiet those feelings of self-doubt, early science suggests that cannabis can actually stimulate the parts of our brains that mediate creativity in several interesting ways.
A 2017 Study demonstrated that cannabis helps make us more open to experiences, leading to feelings of enhanced creativity. This lack of inhibition and open-mindedness to different experiences can manifest as less second-guessing of our artistic instincts, leading to bold choices in your art, and a confidence in the potential of an unfinished piece where you might have had self-doubts that led you to abandon the work before completion. Though this simple shift in mindset is really more of a peripheral effect than a direct influence on our creative centers, it can be enough of an environmental contributor to creative expression to enhance the experience significantly.
As we previously discussed in our blog post about using cannabis to enhance art appreciation experiences like gallery viewings, cannabis can also increase the occurrence of hyper-priming, a phenomenon by which we can make connections between two seemingly unrelated topics or things. This can be incredibly helpful for coming up with creative free associations, such as is often done with deeply symbolic or abstract emotional art creation. In the same way that this open-mindedness and ability to connect the dots increases a connection with the experience of viewing art, it can potentially ramp up your perception of your creative capabilities. The downside to this increased hyper-priming sensation is that the memory impairing effects of THC can often offset your unique idea creation - have you ever been stoned, came up with an absolutely fantastic new idea, and then found that you couldn’t remember it later to articulate it or act on it? For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a notebook handy for recording your cannabis experiences - not only can it help you dial in your terpene and cannabinoid preferences, it can help you hold on to those great ideas that come to you during consumption!
Beyond this, there’s some science suggesting that cannabis can even help support the generation of ideas by supporting overall brain function. Neuroscientists have identified the frontal cortex of the brain as a center for idea creation, and cannabis can potentially stimulate activity in segments of the frontal lobe, as well as increasing blood flow to the entire brain, leading to more potential for activity and deep thought. Though study has not been conducted to conclusively prove that cannabis can directly increase creativity through this mechanism, some neuroscientists who specialize in human creativity postulate that this may indeed be the case.
Interestingly, there’s also been scientific evidence that cannabis may enhance our visual acuity in some situations, thanks to the density of CB1 receptors in the retinas of our eyes. When those receptors are stimulated by THC, there is an increase in visual contrast sensitivity, improving our perception of differences in tonal shift, especially in low light. This perception of enhanced richness of color and tone can inspire our artistic choices during the process of drawing or painting. This may be particularly useful for realistic artistic styles, helping the artist to better replicate the finer details of a subject in lifelike realism.
Best Cannabis Products for Maximizing the Art Experience
So now that you understand the unique ways cannabis can prime our brains for the creative process, you may be wondering - what are the best types of cannabis products to use for enhancing art sessions? Like every situation, cannabis consumption is deeply personal, so you’ll have to weigh your specific needs, wants, and considerations when picking your products. You’ll also need to experiment a bit with proper dosing and consumption methods for your needs. However, there are some general pointers that you can use to guide your cannabis and art experimentations.
First and foremost, THC Potency and Dose matter in all cannabis consumption and this artistic application is no different - study has found that high THC doses can actually impair the divergent thinking that leads to creative new ideas. So if you try to smoke several joints and then sit down to paint, don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little lost! Instead, start low and slow with your dosing, experimenting to find what works best to help you enter a comfortable flow state where the creative ideas start coming to you more easily. You can also incorporate some CBD into your consumption - CBD and THC work synergistically together, producing stronger effects together than they would alone, allowing you to take a lower THC dose and still get positive effects without heavy mental impairment of THC alone.
Consider a consumption method that allows you to get a low-to-moderate THC dose easily, and look for a duration of experience that lines up with your needs - smoking and vaporizing in short sessions can be great for fast onset, quick duration cannabis effects, which you can easily adjust your dose on through modulating length and amount of inhalation. Low dose edibles can also be a great option for use during artistic creation, as they give you a long duration of effects - meaning that you don’t have to interrupt your creation to re-dose often like you might have to with other shorter duration consumption methods.
Finally, consider your setting and social surroundings - there are lots of fun options for communal consumption during art! “Puff, Pass and Paint” classes combine cannabis-driven creativity and the sense of community that has always gone hand-in-hand with cannabis consumption. A great party idea would be creating a big batch of infused treats together (or everyone bringing a cannabis creation potluck style!) and then enjoying them while you create art together. The possibilities are endless - try different terpene profiles, cannabinoids and minor cannabinoids, and dosing combinations to find the cannabis product and THC dose that works best for stimulating your unique creative mind.
We hope that this review of the current science supporting the use of cannabis as a creative aid has inspired you to try using cannabis to grease the wheels of your next artistic process. If you’re interested in learning more about how cannabis works together with our bodies to support our health in many ways, check out our write-up on the Human Endocannabinoid System. If you’re nervous about experimenting with cannabis for the first time, especially edibles, read our blog post on preventing and combatting the negative side effects of THC overconsumption.
*DISCLAIMER: These opinion pieces are personal experiences of the individual authors, and are not medical recommendations, medical claims, or usage recommendations from the company. Our products are not approved by the FDA to treat, cure or prevent any diseases. Periodic edibles supports responsible cannabis use in accordance with all local laws.