Brain On Nuggs is a mixed media collage depicting a cross section of the human brain on cannabis . The cerebellum can be seen near the rear ( the part of the brain responsible for balance , movement and posture ) and is represented by a spool of hemp string . Three joints come together to form the brain stem, one of the joints reaches up into the centre of the brain where the lit side of the cone represents the Pineal Gland (the "third eye" ) . The smoke from the central region of the brain can be seen passing around the frontal , parietal, and occipital lobes (made of cannabis buds ) and represents the electric impulses that fire in the neurons and synapses of the brain.
Brain on Nuggs was created as a tongue and cheek response to the Popular 1987 “This is your brain on drugs” Drug Free America campaign ( and the new 2018 version warning of the effects of cannabis on the brain) which compared the effects of drugs on the brain to an egg in a hot Frying pan.
Individuals under the influence of cannabis often report relaxation, euphoria and increased creativity , so in brain on nuggs the effects of cannabis light up the centres of brain and electrical impulses in the form of smoke can be seen circulating throughout .
In an earlier article on my creative process I explained leveraging the left brain / right brain dichotomy to cause the viewer to have to do a double take to really appreciate the image- in brain on nuggs a similar effect is at play.
The shapes and forms I found in the biology of the brain have been replicated using cannabis and cannabis paraphernalia . The grey matter of the cerebrum ( the outer layer of the brain that looks like overstuffed folded sausages) has a very unique and instantly recognizable pattern , we have seen it a million times and it doesn’t require much thought or conscious effort to know what it is when you see it—these are the patterns and shapes that I target when creating this effect. The random nature of the patterns in the cerebrum are intricate and contorted ( created by folds of nerve cells and fibres ) so to replicate them I used large cannabis buds packed in close proximity to each other, this creates the irregular curves ,folds, and bulges similar to the grey matter of the cerebrum .
The cerebellum is the part of the brain that is responsible for motor control , it sits at the rear of the brain beside the stem. The nerve fibres in the cerebellum are much thinner and more tightly folded than the grey matter in the cerebrum , so for this area of the brain I used a spool of hemp string—it matched in shape —being rounded— as well as in texture—tightly folded fibres.
The stem is at the base of the brain and connects to the spinal cord—my initial idea was to use an actual cannabis tree stem, the big thick ones— but once again getting my hands on something like that would be a challenge—so I opted for plan B, using joints.
Joints as the brainstem allowed for the modelling of the pineal gland, or “third eye” . The third eye is in many ancient cultures tied to mystical teachings and spiritual practices. Psychedelic culture is littered with themes of awakenings, visions , and the ‘opening the third eye’, so I thought it would be appropriate for one of the joints to be that ‘spark’ that lights up the brain from the inside .The stem of the brain extends up into the central area where the pineal gland sits right above it, so using the lit end of the cone seemed to be the most fitting. It also visually portrays the idea of the head rush or intense cerebral high that can be experienced as a side effect from the cannabis strains with higher THC concentration.
Work Flow / Post Processing
Below is a short time lapse of the work flow in procreate 4 from the raw photographs to finished image.This process included adding colour filters to different areas of the brain to create subtle differences , use blending modes to enhance texture, painting in the lit cherry and smoke effects.
Brain on Nuggs is included on the Sticky-icky Sticker Sheet 1 available now on our Online Store
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By : Malcolm Nyiam Vendryes