SATAN PRESS: Bryan Lewis Saunders, an imaginative artist and performer, has been on an incredible journey of expressing himself by carefully making self-portraits every day since 1995. Bryan has gone beyond the usual boundaries of art by doing things like enduring challenges, setting rules for himself, and even drawing inspiration from experiences with drugs. This has led to him creating artworks that are truly one-of-a-kind and unlike anything else. But these bold experiments have brought both amazing art and challenges to Bryan. They've affected his mental well-being, as he openly talked about in previous interviews and news stories. We had an engaging talk with Bryan Lewis Saunders, where we got to explore his world. It's important to mention that during this time, he had a minor surgery for a not-so-serious tumor, and it took 14 stitches to close the wound.
SATAN PRESS: For those who may not know who you are can you give some information about yourself? BLS: I’m an artist that started drawing myself at least once a day on March 30th of ’95. After 10 years or so of that I started doing performance poetry too. I got to see lot of the world performing. Then, after about 10 years of that I stopped performing to focus on drawing. Not only do I draw myself but occasionally when my body and brain are in a nice good well balanced place I’ll do a month long sensory experiment while drawing myself too. I’ve been blind for a month, tried to be deaf for a month, experimented with temperature, and losing consciousness (falling asleep), physical arousal as well as sexual arousal… There’s a cannabis strain named after me, Sour Saunders and it was designed by People Under the Stairs Genetics specifically with drawing in mind. I did about a month long experiment with it but I began developing a tolerance so I quit, I had to like break it up. I’m trying to think if there are any others. Experimented with different drugs back in 2001. That’s what I’m most known for.
SATAN PRESS: I discovered your work and about you... a bit late. What I saw about your work wasn't necessarily new footage, so being that it's now a bit later do you know roughly how many self portraits you've done?BLS: 13,170 at the time of this answer.
SATAN PRESS: I struck interest in your work after seeing the art, but really said "woah" when your drug series experiment was shown. Is there a common misconception that people think you must be on drugs everyday or crazy to be doing these experiments and art (as wild as it gets), to be able to push out all this work?BLS: Yeah, because the drug pictures are so easy to sensationalize online people all of the time are either told, or just assume, that I’m like Hunter S. Thompson or something but in reality I’m closer to being straight edge lol. When I did months of drawing myself under the influence of torture I wasn’t on drugs at all. I want to really feel things so that I can draw them more clearly and communicate them more effectively. The causes and effects seem to get more muddy when you’re on something and doing something else.
SATAN PRESS: You haven't stopped making art, for years... and personally I get times were I say "fuck this" and wanna not work on stuff for a day. But being that you've been continuous, I was curious to know if there have been moments or times where you were like "I think I can stop the portraits and art (in general) and this would be a good number" ?BLS: Nah not really. Sometimes I’ll get stuck in a rut like for example when I started exploring what it really feels like to lose consciousness and then it’s exciting but over time that kind of drawing could become like a routine and then I’ll have to find something to do to break free from that. The body and the brain both try to be homeostatic and not feel things intensely every day. So I have to purposely plan new intense things to do to break free while at the same time keeping myself sane. If I were to just do 12 month long sensory experiments in a row or even 3 of them I would become extremely unbalanced. Great art may come out of that but I feel like its my responsibility to society to stay healthy and not be unbalanced and doing things in the world that I used to do before I started all these kinds of art experiments.
SATAN PRESS: Have there been any experiments you have been wanting to tackle, but either haven't been able to or have been pushing back?BLS: Well I had planned to do 9 months of visual experiments this year and I was working with a company in Moscow. They created 6 different pairs of goggles and were going to sponsor me but once I got the goggles in the mail Russia started the war with Ukraine and I think the company got sanctioned and its illegal now to do anything with them. Plus I have a fans and friends that I love in Ukraine and it just really fucked me up to see what is going on over there. Meanwhile, I’ve been gardening and got about 3 months worth of dinners made and saved up so I won’t need to get much food once I start doing experiments again.
SATAN PRESS: I know your work has influenced me! It definitely pushed me to get creative with art and simply just to keep going. Has your general interest in creating art, led others to reach out and express that your art has helped them?Oh yeah all the time. It seems like every time I get down on myself for not doing something I want to do because of my brain chemistry or when some body part gets fucked up and I have to go physical therapy or something, or the Russians start a war or whatever and I get really depressed and down on myself, it never fails, someone will reach out and tell me the coolest things that my art has done for them. And I can’t tell you how helpful that has been to my life and my art in return. I’m really fucking lucky like that. To know how I’ve made a difference to people is a real blessing. I don’t think about killing other people or killing myself nearly as much as I used to because of that. That’s really important, and I really believe that that’s one of the ways that art is of real biological evolutionary benefit to us. It can truly keep people alive when they might not oughta be.
SATAN PRESS: What current projects do you have going? BLS: I’ve been transcribing my art journals and picking out the highlights again lately. And that’s been really helping me learn about the ways that my thoughts about art have changed over time. There’s been a real progression and I’m able to see how my brain has grown. I’ve been working for while now on a theory of creativity called “Sloppy Theory”. About how mental illness, and alcohol and substance abuse and my sensory experiments and creativity all seem to be related to each other because they all involve a breaking away from the natural brain processes and create what I call a sloppiness which leads to new forms, and new ideas, and new meanings. I hope to really hash that out and come to make sense of all that soon.
SATAN PRESS: If someone wants to check out your art and support, where can they go to; buy, support and/or share your work?BLS: I’m doing this series of art books now called, “Just Noticeable Difference”. I’ve got 7 of them so far, 5 available for sale. I used to think that I had to have all the answers about my art before I even shared it but then a friend told me that’s not the case at all. And once I began to believe that then I started sharing the experiments in books and presenting the images alongside the text from my art journal so people can better see what it is that I’m doing and thinking about during these intense experiences. They’re a bit expensive but I use the sales to publish more books and to do more experiments and it’s turned out way better than I thought it would. Here is a link for them below.http://bryanlewissaunders.org/weblog/2020/nov/18/jnd/
SATAN PRESS: I'm sorry for the delay in bringing you this interview with Bryan Lewis Saunders, who is one of my favorite artists. I've had this interview for a while, intending to publish it in a Zine. However, as we changed our plans, the interview remained unpublished in storage. What better way to kick off the relaunch of our website than with this enlightening and engaging interview featuring such an incredible artist! Many thanks to Bryan Lewis Saunders for the interview, and I encourage you to explore his work!