Five Ways to Draw Psychedelic Art

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When you want to learn how to draw psychedelic art, take your clues from Peter Max, the artist who became the poster child for psychedelic graphic art in the 1960s. Max set the stage for poster art with his psychedelic shapes, bursts and splashes of bright colors, rainbows, stars and odd-looking figures that glowed with luminosity under the rays of a black light.

Max claimed to have worked on the Beatles' animated feature Yellow Submarine, though denied by the producers, the psychedelic art in the film clearly gets its inspiration from Max's work.

Key Elements of Psychedelic Art

Psychedelic art grew out of the social consciousness movement and the recreational drug use that occurred during the 1960s, so its themes include visual images and written commentaries on civil rights, the Vietnam War, recreational drug legalization and feminism. It also included posters of rock bands whose lyrics fueled the movement. Some of the art was meant to resemble the vivid visuals some people experienced while using recreational drugs. Some of the common features of psychedelic art include:

  • Meaningful themes
  • Spiritual concepts
  • Stylistic lettering
  • A spectrum of rainbow and bright colors
  • Fluorescent paints
  • Geometric and free-form shapes

Digital Psychedelic Art

When you have a drawing stylus and pad with your computer, start by doodling and drawing elongated bubbles and shapes. These shapes wrap around each other, leaving a small border between them. You can add colorful straight-lined rainbows, create high-contrast looks using multiple colors or simply draw some round-shaped mushrooms and writing "peace" in fat, plump, but free-form lettering.

Think Kaleidoscope

If you’ve ever looked through a child’s kaleidoscope that cuts an image into multiple shards of color and light, you can apply the images you see through this device to psychedelic art. Almost a type of abstract art, think of psychedelic art like a stained glass window. Everything is connected together with bold lines -- like the lead between the multi-hued shards of glass in a stained glass window, but broken apart into distinct shapes and images.

Use a ruler if necessary, to draw out the various shapes on paper, start by expanding rays of light, and then paint each shape with a different bright paint color. You also could draw a silhouette of an object, such as a parrot or butterfly on the page, but fill the space around the parrot with lines and shapes or restrict these shapes to the inside of a butterfly's wings. Draw lines through the parrot that breaks up its form into multiple shapes and then add color to the shapes with watercolor pens, acrylic paints or colored pencils.

Geometric Shapes

Psychedelic art also draws inspiration from the art deco posters of the early 20th century with its variety of geometric shapes and spirals. Fill the page with your geometric shapes that overlap and sometimes merge. Paint in bright colors anyway you choose, filling the page with all the colors on the color wheel.

Rock Stars

Musicians and rock stars from the 1960s were often iconized in psychedelic art posters. For example, draw a portrait -- face forward -- of Doors front man Jim Morrison in pencil on a piece of drawing paper or on an art canvas. Fill in the hair and the space around his face with free-form shapes, rays of colored light, dots of stars and more using oil paints or acrylics.

Free-form Drawing

Take your pencil to drawing paper and fill the space with free-form shapes, paisleys, stylistic lettering, rounded mushrooms or whatever suits your fancy. Don't be uptight when you draw, as these images don't have to resemble anything other that what pleases you. Color the shapes as desired, using bright and bold hues with water colors, acrylics, oils -- or simply pen and ink. You really can't go wrong when drawing psychedelic art; when it comes to art beauty and meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

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