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Cannabis and creativity: An artist’s view on using weed for inspiration

December 11, 2019

“Have a drink. It’ll get the creative juices flowing.”

If you’re a creator of any sort, that’s a phrase that has probably crossed your path at some point. Maybe it came from a friend, a colleague, or even a teacher—wherever the source, the general consensus seems to be that alcohol and innovation go hand in hand.

Certainly, some of the great creatives of our time have been notable drinkers: Jack Kerouac, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Jackson Pollack, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few, all supposedly leaned heavily on liquor.

If I’m just high, my mind is free to accept thoughts that may not normally enter, and run with it.

For some, however, running the gauntlet with drink and art isn’t palatable for a number of reasons. Laura Doell, the Director of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) for Sundial Cannabis in Alberta, is also an established artist.

Contrary to the artistic heavyweights mentioned above, she can’t mix alcohol and creativity. “I’ve found that I can’t have a drop of alcohol when I do my art because it really ruins everything: my hand eye coordination, my detail work, thinking, concentration—they all go out the window,” Doell explains.

She has found another way to ignite the creative spark, though. “If I have any kind of block for ideas, I either go for a long walk, or I find inspiration from plants,” says Doell.

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“I feel like science and art really go hand in hand, so I go back to my sources of inspiration, which is generally nature. If I’m completely stumped and that’s not working, and I’m sitting there looking at a completely white blank canvas, then I just start putting paint on it. I think right there is where cannabis can have the biggest impact, especially when I’ve been struggling with a bit of road block. It just gets my mind around the bend, and all of a sudden I just throw something down—any colour, any shape—and it becomes something a little bit different than it might be if I didn’t.”

“If I’m just high, my mind is free to accept thoughts that may not normally enter, and run with it,” Doell continues. “Then I can go off in a direction while comfortably, lightly high, and I have all sorts of small epiphanies. I am a divergent thinker, so for me those thoughts come quite easily. I probably have too many thoughts like that but I think that sometimes, especially when I’m getting a little set in my ways, cannabis is a really good tool to just spin in another direction.”

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Through her work, Doell dovetails art and nature into beautiful, detailed landscapes that look deeply into everything from where terrain meets water to Ukrainian Easter eggs. She has won various awards across Canada, and had her work displayed in a slew of galleries throughout British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

She didn’t smoke her way to success, though. In fact, her advice is one of limitations. “I would emphasize to start low and go slow, because I think that’s the number one mistake people make,” Doell says. “Cannabis gets a bad rap because people can easily get too high, especially with something like edibles. You’ll end up learning about your own body the hard way, so don’t make it hard. Instead, start low and go slow.”

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Doell’s role at Sundial is intensely creative, using her degree in plant sciences and experience in commercial crop management to resolve threats like potential pest insects, plant viral and fungal threats. She believes in using the right amount of cannabis as an aid to elevate creativity and is passionate about the many benefits of the plant.

With a wholly optimistic view of what lies ahead, “I feel that with legalization, a whole new world is opening up,” says Doell. “It’s becoming socially acceptable, whereas before it wasn’t. As time progresses, we’re going to see new ideas coming to the front that were never there before. The young and the old, the artists and the business men and women who are stressed, the people who need skin inflammation remedies from CBD—there are so many people who can find uses for this plant. Everyone can benefit from it. I’m definitely not a big user. In fact, I’m still experimenting with finding the right strain for me. But I really do believe in the future of this plant.”

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