Blotter Art

Blotter | As in police blotter or a small piece of paper
Art | Beautiful or significant products of human creativity

Tis no surprise that LSD – possibly one of the most culturally significant products of human creativity in the twentieth century – quickly become meshed into an art form. Not only did it birth art psychedelia but the actually production of LSD involved an art form befitting its meaningfulness as a cultural meme.

Blotter -- those drops of liquid acid placed on absorbent paper, which was then perforated like miniature quarter inch postage stamps each termed a “hit.” The standard sheet was 11x8.5 inches, with 1000 1/4inch squares. Previous to acid being made illegal in 1967 it was sold distributed on anything from sugar cubes to pills. But after 1967, acid mostly came to be sold at the street level on paper blotter.

One School of Thought

holds that the reason for the shift in final product form was due to the mandatory sentencing laws.

Furthermore, early manufacturers knew that soaking paper in LSD was also a more perfect way to control the strength and consistency of each dose. Distribution of the material was facilitated by the use of blotter.

Another school of thought, noting that the use of blotter surfaced actually before LSD became illegal, believes that “branding” occurred. As more acid was available in society, dealers sought to differentiate themselves, particularly if they sold strong doses. They would dip their product in absorbent paper patterned with eye-catching or intriguing designs. After 1967, this kind of blotter branding would also offer quality assurance in addition to the assurance of a strong dose.

Either way, the craze caught on

And quickly LSD blotter came in mini art forms. Blotter art – both past and present – appropriates various psychedelic images and art forms, cartoon art, fractal designs etc. (Who ate Goofy could forget??) Sometimes a whole sheet was an image and other times, each “hit” had its own image. The profundity of form was matched by the miracle it contained.

As a folk art form it might have passed us right by had it not been for one man’s love of blotter art. Mark McCloud – premier blotter artist and collector – is the father of blotter art. Previously blotter art was an anecdotal art which McCloud promoted, winning the attention of National Public Radio and obtaining grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. For almost thirty years Mark has tried to collect the undipped art paper for his collection. (His older pieces that were dipped were exposed to UV to make them LSD void.) Despite such legitimacy McCloud was busted in 2000, for “conspiracy to manufacture and distribute LSD” on the basis of his blotter art collection. Two long years later he was acquitted, and since this time blotter art has an increasing number of collectors.

Today “blotter art” refers to the art form that came into existence – stealing popularity from the visual similarities to the LSD soaked blotter of the past. The journey now is usually one down memory lane. While original blotter may have been done on handcranked machines, each side at a time, nowadays it involves a proper printing process in rich color. Additionally most certainly today’s blotter art contains no actual LSD. A large variety of artists partake in the field now days, and the emphasis is now heading for depth of vision, and high end artistic expression. A good example of this would be Stevee Postman, who though he has a limited selection has a wonderful touch using digital photography married to a Photoshop wonderland approach.

Gwyllm Llwydd, whose works are based on a variety of psychedelic experiences and themes, ranging from his “mantis Head”, which has a decidedly Tryptamine feel to it, Indras' Web with Tim Leary captured from the early 60's, to his latest, “Moiré Eyes”, which has an Op-Art influence to it. He uses traditional art forms married to digital art. The Leary piece is the first in his "Heroes of the Second Revolution" series. Stay tuned for more of these.

Blotter Art is a good way of connecting to the currents running through the Psychedelic/Entheogen Community. Blotter Art is traded and sold with great abandon and what gathering isn't complete with a booth or two selling a variety of these engaging prints? From the older prints, with the simple repetition of image, to the newer more art oriented prints there is a healthy growth in the field. You can find it on Ebay, and if you do a Google search on Blotter Art you turn up some 208,000 references! There are many sites selling it, (see below) and you find it on the most unlikely of walls, and in the most amazing of company. With Blotter Art you are holding a unique take on the past, and a vision of the future.